Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shade Over Pavement

Community Owned Solar Over Parking Lots

     It’s all too often I’ll have to look around a bit to find a shaded parking spot.  On a hot day, my car interior gets up to a gajillion degrees.  On a recent visit to Taos, I had the pleasure of parking beneath a solar array at KTAO, a solar powered radio station, which saved my broccoli from wilting.

     I’ve heard that, without conservation, to supply all the electrical power needed for the United States with solar power would require an area approximately the size of South Carolina.  This sounds huge, but consider we have already covered an area the size of Georgia (a larger state) with pavement.  This is nothing but a distributed desert, and perhaps an even better place for solar panels than rooftops, which are often painted white.  There have been plans floated to pave the roads with solar panels, however, this is still in the research phase.  Putting the panels overhead has a lot going for it.

     Overhead solar panels shade cars, making people more comfortable and saving gas used to power air conditioners.  They keep the pavement cool, reducing the urban heat island effect.  Overhead panels can catch rainfall that would turn into oily runoff and use it to water landscaping.  They are theft-resistant without fencing.  And they are right where the new demand is coming electric cars.

     It’s also a great time for community-owned solar power, with tens of megawatts set to be built in 2011.  Colorado’s Community Solar Gardens Act allows for subscription-based solar up to two megawatts – that could cover acres and acres of parking.

     It’s worth more than writing about – it’s worth doing.  Our team has been pulling together all the tools we will need – developers, financiers, legal structures, and a new profession, community solar specialists we call “Solar Gardeners”. 

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