Solar-covered parking lots offer multiple benefits

Yale University researchers have discovered that parking lots across Connecticut could host 7 GW of solar capacity and produce 9,000 GWh of electricity in their first year of operation.

November 12, 2021

From pv magazine USA

Yale University researchers have found that more than one-third of Connecticut’s electricity could come from solar-covered parking lots.

Adding this potential to Google Project Sunroof rooftop’s solar data increased the availability of solar siting to roughly 85.5% of the U.S. state’s electricity provided solely from solar carports and rooftops.

The authors only examined parking lots with at least 100 standard-sized parking spaces, covering a minimum area of 29,400 square feet. Those criteria cut the number of potential sites to 16,900; later filtering lowered the total still more to 8,416. The authors then spot-checked 100 sites and designed solar power plants for them. They speculated that, on average, 35% of the chosen sites were good candidates for solar panels.

They found that the final 8,416 sites across the state could generate 9,042 GWh of electricity within their first year of operation. The total capacity of these sites was 7,021 MWdc of solar power. Priced at $3.00 per watt to install, the solar canopies would generate approximately $21 billion in construction activity.

The report was funded by People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE). In addition to the technical analysis, the report showed that most parking lots were located in areas that were either low income or non-white.

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Building solar power in low-income areas offers multiple benefits beyond simply generating kilowatt-hours. One benefit would be increasing job development in areas adjacent to people looking for local employment. A second might be that local generation of clean electricity could potentially allow for shutting down of gas power plants, which tend to be located in low-income and non-white communities.

Earlier analysis showed that solar power could power 100% of the energy and electricity in the United States while using a relatively small amount of land. Additionally, research suggests that getting to 80% of U.S. electricity from wind and solar is relatively straightforward.

The knowledge that the United States can get 85% of all electricity from solar power on already developed rooftops and carports alone should be a huge positive for the environmental aspects of solar power. And, just maybe, optimistic solar salespeople should reach out to the Yale researchers to ask about their list of 8,416 sites, which are waiting for a cold call and a proposal.

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