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Solar Panel Parking

As of this week, France will require open-air parking lots with more than 80 spaces to have solar panels. Those with 80-400 spaces will have five years to comply.

Solar panel canopies hold a number of benefits:

  1. A sustainable source of power generation they are a net positive contributor to helping buildings meet carbon reduction targets.

  2. OpEx reduction via owning energy generation onsite, reducing vulnerability to peak-time pricing and utility price change

  3. An alternative revenue source whereby power can be sold back to the grid at a profit

  4. The physical structures provide shading and protection from the elements. In some case studies, in addition to improving the visitor’s experience, shaded car spots have been commodified as ‘preferred parking’ where a premium fee can be charged. For Disneyland Paris, they charge $50/day.

Today in the US, only 2.5% of solar panels are located in urban areas. There is a significant untapped potential to transform open-air parking into revenue generating spaces. As the US moves to increate electric vehicle use, the link between power and parking will continue to strengthen.

Case studies:

  1. Evansville (Indiana) Regional Airport - Installed solar panels to cover 368 spaces at a cost of $5.6 Million. In its first year it earned a $310,000 profit due to being able to charge a premium for parking under the shaded canopies, and through selling power wholesale back to the grid

  2. Walmart - If Walmart were to install solar across their portfolio it would equate to 11.1 Gigawatts of power, the equivalent roughly to 12 large coal-fired plants

  3. Disneyland Paris - Disneyland Paris beginning operating the first section of its Solar Canopy Plant. Produces 36 GWh/year by 2023, the equivalent to annual energy consumption of 14,400 people, and will reduce GHG by 89- tons CO2 pa. In addition to generating energy, it enhances the guest experience via shade structures and shelters from the elements.

As solar panel and battery technology continues to improve and come down in cost, there are immense ESG, revenue and customer experience benefits. I am always interested in seeing how we can make underutilized spaces more productive and solar panels are a triple win.


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