Car parks have become a highly sought-after area for solar power installations

Beyond the vehicles and vacant spots, car parks are transforming into solar power hubs with massive arrays of angled solar panels mounted on jet black steel supports. These panels capture sunlight, generating energy while providing shade for the parked vehicles below.

Adjacent to the offices of a prominent car manufacturer in southern England, there are over 2,000 panels in place, boasting a combined peak capacity of nearly 1 megawatt (MW).

With such a capacity, the solar panels installed in the car park have the potential to power hundreds of homes. Guy Chilvers, the business development manager at SIG, the company responsible for providing the solar canopies, praises their visual appeal, stating, “They look absolutely stunning.”

Guy Chilvers emphasizes that these structures significantly enhance the visual appeal of car parks, acknowledging, “I would say that.” Solar car parks or car ports offer the advantage of generating electricity in open spaces that are conveniently located near energy-intensive establishments like hospitals, shopping centers, or offices. Additionally, the canopies provide added benefits by safeguarding vehicles from rain, snow, and excessive sun during the summer.

As part of an initiative to increase clean energy generation, the French Senate has recently passed legislation mandating the installation of solar panels on all car parks, both existing and new, that have a capacity of 80 spaces or more.

Although the UK lacks a similar requirement, solar car parks have been in existence for several years, and there are indications of a growing trend in the country. With prevailing high electricity prices, numerous businesses are embracing on-site renewable energy sources as a means to mitigate long-term costs.

A recent report by the countryside charity CPRE and the UCL Energy Institute highlights a significant opportunity to transform British car parks into solar farms. According to Professor Mark Barrett from UCL, the report suggests that out of the estimated 117GW potential in the built environment, around 11GW can be harnessed from car parks alone.

To provide context, Solar Energy UK states that the UK presently possesses approximately 15GW of solar capacity and aims to achieve 40GW by 2030 to meet its net-zero objectives. Professor Barrett acknowledges that the estimated 11GW potential from car parks is a conservative figure, considering an assumed available area of 130 sq km, which is lower than the estimate of 200 sq km proposed by Knight Frank, a real estate agency.

Furthermore, the report by CPRE and UCL assumes a 50% coverage of each car park with solar canopies, rather than full coverage of 100%.

Without a doubt, the vast expanse of car parks offers ample room for the installation of solar panels, and this realization is gradually gaining traction. Mr. Chilvers enthusiastically describes the overwhelming response he has received, stating, “It’s absolutely gone crazy.”

His inbox is flooded with inquiries, including requests for quotes from hotels, hospitals, and leisure centers. While Mr. Chilvers and his team focus on designing and constructing the steel structures for solar canopies, the panels themselves are sourced separately.

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By Ryan

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