Solar energy is not something that you can only create on rooftops and solar farms. Household rooftop solar and large scale solar farms have been the main focus of capital projects and government expenditure over the last decade. This focus has been a great thing. However, just take a drive around any Australian town or city, and you will see vast areas of uncovered parking lots; many of which could be turned into solar car parks.
What does solar car park mean?
The term solar car park is relatively new and refers to covering a commercial car park or parking lot with a structure that can then have solar panels placed onto it. Solar car parks take a site that is currently only used for one thing, and creates a mini solar farm. Or not so mini as the case may be!
How big are solar car parks?
The solar car park projects that we have been involved in are of varying size and scale; from a small installation at the Old Spot Pub in South Australia to the largest solar car park project in the Southern Hemisphere at Elizabeth & Edwardstown, South Australia. These projects show that a solar car park shade structure does not have to be limited by space. It also shows that you can create a dual-purpose structure that gives practical benefits to the corporation that built it.
Renewable Energy in Australia
In Australia, we are moving towards a future that is 100% powered by renewables. South Australia is leading the charge towards this with the 11th of October 2020 marking a milestone of the first 100% renewable day. There is still a long way to go. Significant decisions still need to be made along the way if we reach the goal of an Australia powered by 100% renewables.
Government Solar Energy Solutions
There is a disappointing lag with governments on all levels making retrofit changes to their buildings to show leadership in the renewable energy space. Imagine if all public facilities were fitted with rooftop solar; and if all public car spaces were retrofitted with solar shade structures. The impact would be significant, and a commitment like this would show outstanding leadership in renewable energy.
This onus needs not fall entirely on the shoulders of governments. Whilst it is crucial to have subsidies and programs that support the building of renewable energy generation infrastructure, corporations also have a responsibility.
Corporate Responsibility for Solar Energy Production
One example of a large corporation taking this responsibility seriously is Aldi Supermarkets. Aldi has committed to powering its stores with renewable energy from 2021. Aldi’s renewable energy commitment is excellent news, but what is better is the fine print included in this commitment. Aldi has an onsite generation first policy; where possible, they will generate the power needed for their stores on the premises. This could be through solar panels or solar covered shade structures, or a combination of both. This commitment is, to our knowledge, unique in the supermarket industry. Other companies are reaching their 100% renewable targets by a mainly PPA and third party approach. Whilst this is still to be congratulated, there is an element of tokenism in this approach.
What we love about Aldi’s policy is there commitment to make “something from nothing” as the old adage says – taking a car park and using it to power their stores and warehouses. As we move towards a 100% renewable Australia, there are plenty of opportunities to create energy within our towns and cities. It just requires commitment and imagination to look at a car park and see a renewable energy generation opportunity.
If you want to discuss a potential solar energy shade project, the team at PV Structures are available. We have been involved in more solar car park builds than any other company, and are the leaders in solar car park shade. Get in touch on 1300 769 112.