How Much Energy Could be Generated with Solar Panels in a Parking Lot?
We know solar panels take some space but do you wonder how much energy could be generated with solar panels in a parking lot? A solar panel is an assembled collected of photovoltaic cells.
The cells are formed into panel and the panels can be used as part of a large array of panels that may use an inverter, a battery and be wired together.
Construction of Solar Panels
You can build a simple solar panel at home but if you use commercial constructed solar panels, the theory behind the construction determines the efficiency of the solar collection and how much power is generated.
The PV cells that are part of a solar panel have to be connected to each other and to the system itself. The panel itself is design to prevent damage to the PV cells and to keep moisture out of them.
The standard solar panel is a rigid structure but newer somewhat flexible panels are also available. The way in which the electrical connections are designed in the panel has the goal of achieving the highest voltage production.
A solar panel may appear simple but the construction is highly technical. If shade is an issue during part of the day there may be diodes meant to avoid reverse currents and allow power to escape. When solar energy is captured and released it causes panels to become overheated and it wastes valuable power.
When thinking about how much energy could be generated with solar panels in a parking lot, you may be thinking of linking up the panels on the concrete surface.
That would not be how the panels are installed. PV cells are not efficient if they become too hot so solar panels are installed in a way that allows air to circulate around them.
This would be a problem in a concrete parking lot as the reflected sunlight bouncing off the hard surface as well as the tendency of concrete to easily absorb energy of the sun as heat would interfere with circulation meant to cool the solar panels.
Some solar panels include features to focus sunlight using mirrors or lenses so that each individual cell receives the maximum exposure to the sun's energy.
Solar panels can yield electricity in a wide range of frequencies but cannot absorb ultraviolet, infrared or diffused light frequencies. For this reason, much of the sunlight reaching the PV cell is not used.
Current research is focused on designs that split light into various wavelengths so that those wavelengths can be pointed to different, specialized cells in the panel. When this technology is perfected it is estimated to improve the efficiency of solar panels by as much as 50%.
Mounting Solar Panels
To determine how much energy could be generated with solar panels in a parking lot, the mounting system would need to be considered. The installation of the panels will affect the amount of power produced.
Solar trackers are complex systems that continually move installed solar panels to follow the arc of the sun throughout the day. This is an expensive method of panel installation.
It is complex from the point of view of mechanical operation, needs a considerable amount of maintenance and is used only in limited areas.
Fixed racks hold the solar panels in one location with the tilt angled to suit the latitude of the installation. This is a recommended mounting system and much less expensive than solar trackers. Solar panels can be mounted using ground mounts which provide a slab, footing or post that holds the weight of the panel.
Why Be Concerned?
Why would you add solar panels to a parking lot? Actually, there is good reason for asking how much energy could be generated with solar panels in a parking lot.
We have built huge parking lots across the country. These serve useful purposes in providing a place to park while we shop or eat or go home to our apartment building.
Parking lots have a downside. They use a large amount of land and they contribute nothing positive to the environment. They are functional and nothing more. This could change with proposals that parking lots become more than resting places for your vehicle.
One of the downside of concrete lots is the tendency to absorb the heat from the sun. This is spread to the air in the vicinity and adds to discomfort when you walk across hot concrete or get into a car with a steering wheel too hot to touch and seat covers that burn your legs.
It's proposed to add roofs to parking lots across the country. Those roof systems would be open on all sides and would provide support for installation of large solar panel arrays.
These panels could generate the power to reduce the cost of operation of the businesses or homes service by the parking lot. This is a highly practical approach.
Building a metal roof over a large parking lot is much cheaper than building separate solar panels displays on large pieces of land that would need to be purchased for use. It turns an ugly parking lot into an environmentally friendly car lot that more than pays for itself.
The answer to how much energy could be generated with solar panels in a parking lot depends on the type of panels used but it is being done in test locations and is a process like to spread throughout the country.