(Updated on July 28, 2010, to correct size of smaller projects, as well as total capacity served by Solaire projects.)
Say you're a company that really requires most of your employees to work onsite. You can't really support the telecommuting thing right now. How can you provide a little extra incentive to make your team feel good about being there ? How about adding some solar power to your parking lot?
That's the business proposition of Solaire Generation, a New York-based company that is helping businesses capitalize on underutilized real estate.
The simple fact, according to Solaire Generation CEO and founder Laurence Mackler, is that most parking lots are heat sinks, making them a prime location for solar installations.
Not only does an installation provide extra capacity that can be used by the landlord -- typically a corporate park or maybe a mall - but the panels provide some shade. Some businesses are also interested in supporting electric car charging with their installation, since the eight-hour window that most people spend at an office also happens to be an ideal time to charge your vehicle, says Macker.
Solaire works with the solar installation companies, which are the ones pitching these installations to businesses and retail organizations -- anyone with a parking lot, essentially. Macker says the projects range from small (about 500 kilowatts). A typical size for a 600-space location would be about 1 megawatt. Right now, California and New Jersey are two of the states with the best incentives for solar installations.
Solaire has recently completed a 1.1 megawatt project for Johnson & Johnson. It recently began a new project, for 3.5 megawatts, at an undisclosed site in New Jersey. For perspective, 1 megawatt would power the equivalent of 114 households, he estimates.
"We are only limited by the size of the parking lot," Mackler says.