Can't put solar on your roof? Try your parking lot

Can't put solar on your roof? Try your parking lot

Summary: One key to adoption of alternative energy technologies not only is how easy the technology is to install, but also how easy it is to finance. American Clean Energy, a New Jersey company that focuses on commercial and industrial solar installations, is attempting to address both of those issues in partnership with Envision Solar.

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One key to adoption of alternative energy technologies not only is how easy the technology is to install, but also how easy it is to finance. American Clean Energy, a New Jersey company that focuses on commercial and industrial solar installations, is attempting to address both of those issues in partnership with Envision Solar. It also recognizes that rooftops aren't the only places that businesses are interested in installing solar technology.

The two companies are teaming on a lease for New Jersey customers that covers installations of the Solar Tracking Tree, which is parking lot solar configuration that includes EnvisionTrak, which is a technology that helps the solar panels track the sun. The Solar Trees are designed to accommodate electric vehicle charging stations, if the business or real estate management company desires to add that functionality.

The video below provides a conceptual demonstration of what the technology does:

When I spoke with American Clean Energy CEO Steve Morgan a few weeks back about the program, he said that what makes solar leases attractive is the fact that the host business at the site doesn't need to put up core capital. In this particular arrangement, the solar asset is owned by American Clean Energy on behalf of the lease holder; the business buys back the electricity generated by the technology under a power purchase agreement (usually a 20-year contract). These sorts of installations make most sense for companies seeking to put in at least 500 kilowatts of solar capacity, he said, although American Clean Energy can work with smaller installations.

"We are trying to modularize this business, make it more repeatable," Morgan said.

Parking lot solar makes sense for commercial facilities that either don't have the roof space to install rooftop arrays or that aren't comfortable with the idea of covering the roof in this manner. New Jersey is an attractive solar market for a couple of key reasons: It already has more solar per square mile than any other state, plus the state has committed to sourcing about 22.5 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2021. That's a lot of parking lots and rooftops over the next 10 years.

You may have heard of Envision Solar and its Solar Trees before. That's because the company has several high-profile agreements with companies including GE and Dell, where it has done an installation at the company's headquarters in Round Rock, Texas.

Topics: Telcos, Enterprise Software

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  • RE: Can't put solar on your roof? Try your parking lot

    And the employees get covered parking to boot!

    This is a great idea!
    wkulecz
    • RE: Can't put solar on your roof? Try your parking lot

      @wkulecz I would just hate to be the poor schlub that ends up having to park beneath the lower edge of one of these things on a rainy day. If they don't go "flat" during rainy days, that poor B***ard is gonna get absolutely soaked just trying to get into his car!
      gavin142
      • RE: Can't put solar on your roof? Try your parking lot

        @gavin142 I agree that the design as shown is bad for rainy days. However the local college I attend just installed a much better setup where the cars park facing north or south and the runoff goes behind the cars. Plus the panels span the entire length of the lot and are supported by multiple columns
        mc_rog46_sd1
    • RE: Can't put solar on your roof? Try your parking lot

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    • RE: Can't put solar on your roof? Try your parking lot

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  • Lease cost is offset by electricity savings

    I like this part especially. Makes you wonder why they aren't overwhelmed with demand. I wish them well.
    giddyma
  • RE: Can't put solar on your roof? Try your parking lot

    We have a Canals super store near me (So Jersey) that's installing a 23Kw solar system in the parking lot. Bonus for cars is it will keep them shaded in the summer sun and keep some snow off in the winter.
    Jaytmoon
  • RE: Can't put solar on your roof? Try your parking lot

    Although I think this is basically a good idea, I am a little concerned that this kind of concept makes the idea of massive parking lots seem somehow "green". Think Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi... Its a shame also that the video shows real trees being removed from the parking lot to be replaced by these "solar trees".
    charlie.heaps
  • Have you ever seen how people park in 'Jersey'?

    I think they'd have to mount the panels on posts made from old railroad tracks to keep them from being knocked over and crushed! Between pickups, SUVs, and careless Camry pilots, they will have to have an on-site crew just to keep drivers from destroying the 'electric trees'.
    ExEC135CrewDog
  • RE: Can't put solar on your roof? Try your parking lot

    The 3M Austin Center put solar panels on their parking lot some twenty years or so ago. The panels were on motorized mounts to follow the sun. I don't think they're there anymore. Maybe they couldn't take Texas hailstorms... I don't know.
    bb_apptix