Last May, we got really excited about paving America’s roads with solar panels. But instead of laboriously tacking panels on the nation’s 4-million mile stretch of concrete, how about something much, much simpler?
Solar parking lots.
Chris Mooney raves on The Washington Post’s new environmental blog that solar carports are the “best idea in a long time.” That’s because a photovoltaic canopy helps power whatever office or building the parking lot services, provides shade for the cars parked underneath and can help juice up electric car charging stations.
This idea isn’t new — Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters has had one since 2007, the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field also has a solar carport that generates 20 percent of the stadium’s power and tricked-out lots are also found in solar-happy states like California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina.
It’s a tantalizing consideration for any business that wants to go green with the renewable energy of the sun or even for homeowners who don’t have a proper roof for a rooftop installation.
But as Mooney points out, the reason why this seemingly no-brainer idea is not yet widespread is its cost. “It’s the most expensive type of system to build,” Chase Weir of TruSolar tells the columnist. “A lot more engineering, a whole lot more steel, more labor, and therefore, it’s a relatively small percentage [of solar power]…but it is growing, and the cost to install a solar canopy today is less than the cost to install a rooftop just a few years ago.”
It’s true. Despite a recent glut of cheap oil, clean energy is booming. Panels are only getting cheaper and more efficient. One day, we will run out of fossil fuels, but the sun will shine on and on. Looks like the forecast for solar carports is sunny.