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Parking Lot Solar Farms

Locate solar panels or reflectors above the parking lots of suburban sprawl.
  [vote for,

In many areas, there are large single level parking lots around malls, stadiums, etc.

During hot weather, cars parked in those lots get really hot inside. One of the easiest solutions is to have covered parking so the sun doesn't shine directly on the cars, but generally that's not cost effective for a mall owner.

Solar energy is also a technology that is currently not cost effective in most cases. But what if the cost of solar installation was reduced by making the real estate free, and getting additional value from the installation by using it as a sun shade above parking lots?

The parking lot owner benefits by giving shaded parking to their customers and getting "green" publicity. The utility gets a convenient location to install the panels or reflectors with no real estate costs, and has a nice paved surface to work from when doing maintenance.

The cost of the installation might be increased slightly since the pannels will need to be high enough to drive under, but it seems like that might be offset by the fact that the area is already level and paved. The parking lot owner might also be willing to pitch in a bit on the cost since they are getting some benefit as well. There shouldn't be problems with people complaining about how it looks since parking lots are ugly to begin with.

scad mientist, Jul 14 2004

(??) done http://www.lgc.org/...jun2002/page02.html
[Laughs Last, Oct 05 2004]


       The merchants could advertise on the panels -   

       "This parking space shade and resulting electricity provided by See's Candy"
normzone, Jul 14 2004

       I had this idea, but you got there before me, so (+). There are two options here, either a roof covering the entire car-park, or individual solar arrays positioned over every space, probably cantilevered against each the array covering the adjacent space.   

       Although the latter design would make a visually striking parking lot, I think that the former would be more suitable; it allows for bulkier equipment, and while the individual solar arrays would have to be photo-voltaic, that is, electricity-producing, the roof idea would allow for the ones that directly heat water as well.   

       I actually wonder why people like Wal-Mart or Carrefour haven't done this already, it really makes sense, and as you say, major environmental brownie points. Someone should probably write to them.
duh_don, Jun 08 2009

       A great idea - but maybe it would be a lot cheaper to just put the panels into the parking lot ground itself. I'm sure someone could come up with a surface that is both strong and could generate heat. That way you don't need all the raised structureal elements. sort of like laying tiles with wires attaching them together and sending electricity back to the store or whatever. Spray 'em down once a month to get rid of dust/oil spills etc.
marquisdenet, Jun 08 2009

       I'd imagine the stores don't do it because the empty space of the parking lot actually has value based on how far away their signs are visible. Putting a shade over the area hides their sign from people parked there.
ye_river_xiv, Jun 08 2009

       There are many unused rooftops and open places where one might put solar panels. The fact that they are not there suggests a cost/benefit analysis finds them to be too expensive for the return.
bungston, Jun 08 2009

       [bungston] Either that, or just a lack of imagination on behalf of the populace, which is endemic in society today. Even if it doesn't generate any income directly, a green company is much more attractive to investors, and indeed to customers, than one stuck in the oil-ridden past.   

       [ye river] I don't think I understand you; what you seem to be saying is that, if someone is in a car- park, but can't see the signs to the store which owns the car-park, then they'll be less likely to go into the store. If that is what you're saying, I think we can safely assume that, if someone's inside the car-park, they got because they wanted to shop at the shop, and if they're outside, then a roof on the car-park won't affect the visibility of the signs. Please explain.   

       [Marquisdenet] I agree, but I think that that would only work for the water-heating kind of solar panels, the photo-voltaic ones, which produce electricity directly, are much more fragile. As far as I know, you could just do a sort of reverse- underfloor heating, where pipes carry the heat away from the tarmac rather than bringing it to it. Excellent idea, though.
duh_don, Jun 09 2009

       Definitely baked in some locations. At this point photovoltaic panels are just coming down to the price point where installing them on pre-existing structures makes sense in moderately sunny or better locations. Having to build an elaborate structure to place them generally does not make financial sense. As the cost of panels continues to drop, however, I expect we will start to see this much more frequently.
MechE, Jun 09 2009

       Wallie world (Wal-Mart) and similar are starting to be putting in permeable concrete recently in some parts of the USA anyway. It allows water to drain through the concrete and soak in or run off underneath the surface. Good strong permeable concrete has 17% or less 'free space' between the rock and it must be about 1.5X as thick as 'normal' concrete for the same strength. If made with half as much cement and replace it with flyash, it will take longer to harden, but will be just as strong and much 'greener'. To make it last longer, it needs some elastomers added, but that costs abot $15/yard but adds about half again to the life of the concrete (Instead of deteriorating after 20+ years, it will start to deteriorate after 30+ years, kind of a thing).   

       All this to say we can get greener by doing other things to make our parking lots 'green' other than just genrating power.   

       Collecting heat using pipes and liquid is probably the easiest, but it does take some infrastructure installation in the parking lot that many are not willing to 'gamble' on. And collecting heat using large flat plate collectors like this will not collect a lot of 'high quality' heat, but it will collect a lot of 'low quality' heat. My guess is it can collect 10 to 30 deg F above ambient temperatures much of the time, but using that effectively may be an issue. Because using low quality heating / cooling require large storage facilities (think, HUGE tanks).   

       When I was a kid, my dad did do something similar in our back patio. He put garden hose in the patio slab when it was being poured, and by running sprinklers in the yard it kept the concrete bearable for me to play on (think 3 to 5 years old here), and he just watered the grass with the heated water. (Think 1950's for energy conservation... not much thought was put into it back then.)   

       I have seen parking canopies used to mount solar cells on ... a good way to keep the cars cool and get extra use out of the parking areas, without having to drive or park on the solar cells!
servant74, Nov 21 2009

       Even if you can not cover the entire lot due to night lighting , a single row or perimeter row of collectors will provide some shade and power some store lighting or hot water.   

       The nice thing about using parking lots vs other existing structures is you don't have to calculate wind loadings of the preexisting building.
popbottle, Jul 07 2013


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