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USA: Solar Parking Canopies – Serious Power, Cool Shade

It takes a lot of electricity to run Dow Jones, one of the world’s largest publishers and information providers. Dow Jones is now generating 3.6 MW of its own electricity with Solaire Generation Solar Parking Canopies. Solar parking structures allow organizations to reduce their utility bills, get more control of their own electricity generation, convert asphalt heat islands into attractive demonstrations of sustainability, and protect employees, customers and their cars.

I met with Solaire Generation CEO Laurence Mackler here at the Intersolar conference and exhibition being visited by over 22,000. Mackler explained that he founded the business because it made economic sense for his customers. They run the numbers and approve projects. Solaire is completely focused on parking structures with a patented dual-incline roof, the main surface south sloping for greatest efficiency. All Solaire parking structures use PV panels, not thin-film, to capture enough sun in the constrained space of the structures.

Increasingly, customers are also including solar electric car charging. Johnson and Johnson included 5 Coulomb Technology charge points in their 1.1 MW Solar Parking Canopy which uses SunPower panels. General Electric has a new Solaire parking structure that includes a number of the new GE charging stations.

The Arizona VA Hospital is installing 2.9 MW of solar panels from Kyocera and REC Group covering several parking lots. To research this article, I meet with Dr. Angiolo Laviziano, the CEO of REC Solar who is managing all aspects of this solar project.

The installation will add to a 302 kW single-axis tracker mounted system that REC Solar. Following the angle of the sun through the day, single axis systems are often 30 percent more efficient than fixed panels. Dr. Laviziano states that REC has 4.1 MW of added solar parking under contract from other VA Hospitals.

Like many organizations, the VA Hospital considered locating the solar panels on its roofs. This approach would have been more expensive; a uniform surface was not available due to rooftop located air conditioning and other equipment. Solar parking had the added benefit of giving employees and patients shading parking, instead of exposure to the blistering Arizona summer sun. Highly visible, the solar parking provides a positive public image which is often lost when solar is installed on roofs of high buildings.

REC Solar CEO Angiolo Laviziano is now expanding business for his 600-employee firm. REC plans to partner with several makers of electric charging equipment. Customers are expressing a growing interest in including electric car charge points in their electric parking structures. The least expensive time to install charging stations is when the power electronics, panels, and other equipment in being installed for the solar power, parking lighting, and other electric demands.

An informal REC survey of early adopters of electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, showed that these drivers also use solar power. Another 50 percent are interested in solar power. Angiolo is a perfect example of an early adopter of both. Years ago, he converted his Subaru to be an electric car using added lead-acid batteries in the trunk. He charges his car with his REC Solar system, a highly efficient two-axis system. He is the only owner I’ve met of an all-wheel drive electric car and certainly the only one who charges with a two-axis solar system.

Thousands of Parking Spaces Now Solar Shaded Globally

California State University Bakersfield (CSUB), Dr. Horace Mitchell and Sun Edison LLC, a leading worldwide solar energy services provider and a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE:WFR), co-hosted a “Flip the Switch” ceremony to commemorate the activation of the 1.2 megawatt (MW) solar parking canopy located on the CSUB campus.
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