Solar Parking Lots Are a Win-Win Energy Idea. Why Aren’t They the Norm?

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Commuting students and tailgaters at Michigan State University get a bit of relief from the elements when they park their cars to head into class or a football game. , tall enough to park an RV underneath, stand on steel trusses above the lot, providing a bit of shelter and shade. Not only does the university get , its students have cooler cars in August and don’t have to spend time scraping their cars free of snow in 20-degree weather in January.

I know because I parked under them for almost two years as a commuting student.

It struck me as such a useful system that it seems strange that every parking lot doesn’t have solar panels over it.

whether it’s , or over a parking lot. The owners of big parking lots may not site solar there for a number of reasons, BBC World News Today including both price and inconvenience. However, some solar experts think it’s possible that a swell of interest in sustainability could bring more solar parking arrays in the coming years.

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The upfront costs of solar

For many homeowners, installing solar panels .

The same is true for large institutions.

Michigan State estimated the parking lot panels (located over five lots) would . The university gets the electricity from the panels under a , which means it doesn’t own the panels but agrees to purchase the power. It saves by getting the power for a lower price than from an alternative source.

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While the economics of a power purchase agreement are a bit different, for the company that absorbs the construction costs, building elsewhere would be a better deal. 

“A carport is roughly 40% more expensive compared to a ground mount system,” said Tim Powers, a research and policy associate for , the company that built Michigan State’s system.

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