Have you ever stopped and thought about how much of this planet’s surface is dedicated to roads and open air car parks? This transport infrastructure takes up so much land and does nothing else except to service our vehicles.
But what if we started converting roads and car parks to solar power farms to make better use of the space they occupy? This would certainly allow for massive renewable energy generation within a city, cutting down on line losses and without taking up prime real estate.
It’s already happening, albeit it on a small scale. Two California based companies; Clean Power Systems and Envision Solar, Inc. along with Kyocera Solar, Inc. banded together recently to “plant” a SolarGrove ™ for the St. Mary Medical Center in San Diego; consisting of custom steel frame shade structures that support a canopy of 1,150 Kyocera KC 200GT solar panels.
Aside from generating an estimated 333,400 kWh of clean, renewable energy per year and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the structure will provide much appreciated shade for the parking lot.
St. Mary Medical Center didn’t set out with a plan to create a solar farm, but just to install shade structures for its employees. Solar Power Partners provided financing for the project at no cost to the hospital through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which means the Center hosts the solar power system rather than owns it. The electricity generated by the system is purchased back by the Center at around the same price as they are currently paying.
The St. Mary Medical Center installation has created a lot of buzz, with many other organizations now inquiring about acquiring solar power car park farms. With these sorts of structures likely to become more commonplace, solar panel manufacturers such as Kyocera are looking forward to increased business. Kyocera is currently expanding their Tijuana facility among others and are expecting to increase their global solar panel manufacturing output from 207 megawatts (MW) in 2007 to 650 MW by March 2012.