Image credit: Strategic Solar Energy
TreeHugger's Pablo was asked the other day whether solar contributes to the heat island effect. Because panels are dark in color, went the query, do they actually increase the amount of heat absorbed in an urban environment? As Pablo explained, the reverse may be true—solar panels may help marginally cool a building by providing shade. Now, an innovative new 2MW solar structure at ASU seeks to do even more—significantly reducing the heat island effect by providing dappled shade to a laarge parking lot. Of course this isn't the first time that a parking lot has been used for a solar installation. From Renault's 60MW solar shades over car dispatch areas to the Redskins' 2MW solar shade and EV charging array at the FedEx Field, the idea of combining solar shading with car parking seems to be taking off as a means to build large-scale solar without additional land, and provide additional benefits in the process.
Now a company called Strategic Solar is planning to install a 2MW solar array—which it has called the PowerParasol—over Lot 59 at ASU which has an ambitious goal of installing 16MW of solar within a few years but already finds itself running out of appropriate roof space. Consisting of 7,584 photovoltaic solar panels, and covering 228,916 sq. ft, the structure will provide dappled shade for over 800 car parking spaces. StatePress reports that the project could provide one pointer on how to reduce the urban heat island effect and generate significant energy capacity:
The benefits of this particular design are vast, Boscamp said. Besides the obvious benefit of 800 newly shaded parking spots for visitors, one environmental benefit of placing the PowerParasol over asphalt is the lessening of the so-called "heat island" effect. "[The asphalt] heats up during the day and then radiates that heat into the atmosphere at night," Boscamp said. "This will mitigate that."
Of course, shading a parking lot in a hot climate like Arizona will also result in fuel savings, reducing the need to crank the AC when motorists start up their cars. Now if they could just combine this with electric vehicle fast charging...
Of course, it goes without saying that parking structures encourage car use. Lloyd has even gone as far as to ask whether solar panels in parking lots are greenwash. But in the absence of a serious plan to get the majority of Americans to bike, walk, bus it or work from home, I can't help but look around at this country and see an awful lot of parking lots that could at least be doing something to generate clean energy.