By Guy Chilvers
In addition to their horrendous impact on the planet, cars are chronically underused. In the US, the average family car finds itself parked for roughly 95% of its life, and that figure is fairly universal worldwide.
There are more than a billion cars on the planet and each needs almost 17 square meters (180 square feet) on average to park in. In total, area for parking takes up about 20% of urban land or around 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 square miles) globally.
That’s an area of land that’s bigger than France, and it’s effectively being wasted on vehicles which are not in use.
This is a particularly poor utilization of land, particularly in cities where Bloomberg has calculated that each parking space is worth around $2,000 (£1,450) in urban centers.
Aside from the fact that such space could arguably be better used as housing or recreational spaces, car parking isn’t even good business.
Commercial parking lots find it very hard to make a profit, with the return on investment likely to be a fraction of what can be obtained through other applications.
At the same time as we’re wasting huge swathes of land parking polluting vehicles, we are faced with the need for a radical increase in green electricity to power the millions of electric vehicles (EVs) that need to replace traditional fuel burners to slow the rate of climate change.
One recent example of the push for EVs is the UK’s has commitment to banning the sale of gas and diesel cars within 10 years. Another is General Motors’ stated objective of halting sales of new gasoline-powered cars and light trucks by 2035.
Obviously, electrification of vehicle transport will dramatically increase the demand for electrical power. If every car in the US, for example, was turned electric tomorrow, consumption of electricity would have to increase by 25%, overnight.
And for that to not further fuel the ongoing climate emergency, it needs to come from renewable sources.
The advent of cheap, durable and reliable photovoltaic (PV) panels offers a combined solution to the waste of real estate and at least some of the projected shortfall of green electricity.
Solar canopies can convert parking spaces into electricity generating sites which can offer car owners protection from the elements plus heat, dust, rain, bird droppings and so on. And cheap or even free electricity to power EVs.
Canopies have several advantages over other sky-facing surfaces available in urban and suburban areas. Unlike most rooftops, they are flat and uniform, without complicating features such as antennas, vents and chimneys.
They are also much more accessible if the need for repair or cleaning arises. And in the unlikely event of breakages, the cost of replacing a solar panel is likely to be less than it would be to repair a car unprotected by a canopy.
Potentially low maintenance costs also make solar canopies desirable from an energy production point of view.
The amount of power that could be harnessed by covering the world’s car parks with solar canopies is a staggering 43 terawatts, or more than 15 times the total installed capacity of renewable energy in the world today.
So, the case for solar canopies is persuasive from a commercial as well as a green energy perspective. But what should you look for in the canopy system before you invest in what could be a key piece of infrastructure?
The basic requirements are mostly derived from common sense. Any viable system should adhere to local manufacturing standards. That manufacture should help ensure the longest possible life.
Solar canopies should also maximize the amount of energy produced per unit, and ensure connectivity is straightforward and safe. Ideally, components will be standardized for simple assembly.
Installation should be simple and quick, and the whole structure easy to maintain, ideally using rainfall to keep the panels clean. Any installation you consider should also bear in mind the car drivers’ needs.
Again, these are commonsense: does the canopy protect the vehicle adequately? Can it provide lighting so users can get into and out of their cars safely at night? Does the structure minimize outcropping features which can snag on clothing and scratch paintwork?
As a world leader in solar carports and EV charging, Pacific Green’s canopies fulfil all these requirements and more. They have been optimized for ease of installation, use and maintenance.
What’s more, they have the stability and modularity to fit into any specific needs. All the basic components, including posts, rafters, purlins and PV panel mounting rails are standardized to minimize cost while maximizing quality and operational efficiency.
Our high-efficiency bifacial PV panels work with no obstructions to the underside of the structure. There’s a choice of carport designs, including a double gullwing canopy that covers two rows of four car parking spaces per unit and a mono design for a single row.
We can also integrate battery storage into any project so the carport can carry on supplying EV power after sundown or on cloudy days. And we can add even more value, combining solar canopies with EV charging, refreshment, retail and drive-through facilities.
Branding can feature at all customer contact points throughout the charging platform, to boost corporate recognition. We will even help with planning, power evaluation, licensing, installation and operations and maintenance, delivering a complete turnkey service.
We’re here to help anyone interested in joining the solar canopy revolution. If you’re looking to incorporate solar carports or EV charging into a larger development or are looking for a provider that can offer a complete turnkey project, contact us now.