Another shady operation
April 12, 2012 7:01 PM   Subscribe

Cost to park: free. Cost to charge: free.
Metrolink unveils a 2MW solar car park.
posted by flabdablet (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
This seems like a shameless plug.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 7:26 PM on April 12, 2012 [11 favorites]


Up with this sort of thing! Parking lots take up so much damn space, we might as well get some extra use out of 'em. I tried to find a figure on how much actual land area in the USA is covered in parking lots, but I couldn't. I'd love to see one. If we could get the economics of installing this infrastructure sorted out, I wonder how big a dent in our energy budget we could make with this sort of stuff.
posted by Scientist at 7:30 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This seems like a shameless plug.

I hear leather is a good insulator.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:43 PM on April 12, 2012


Scientist, I don't have figures for you, but here's an interesting image showing the amount of land use for parking in Santa Monica, CA. Its an eye-opener. Note that this excludes on-street parking.
posted by Joh at 10:22 PM on April 12, 2012


Free? Who paid for it and how much?
posted by caclwmr4 at 12:02 AM on April 13, 2012


I quite often park under a prototype system of this sort here in southern France. I think that to most drivers here the main draw is using a car park which provides good shade - normally something achieved by planting a few trees. The car park - featuring a solar system by Heliowatt, is at a park and ride location at the end of a tram line - thus not in prime real estate. It has room for maybe 300 vehicles and now pumps out about 650,000 Kw per year. The article says that this, together with another similar scheme, cost 6.3 million euros - I would love to believe that such endeavours are, or will become, economically viable.
posted by rongorongo at 1:52 AM on April 13, 2012


^ and here is a PDF describing the technical and performance aspects of their product ( in French).
posted by rongorongo at 2:02 AM on April 13, 2012


It has room for maybe 300 vehicles and now pumps out about 650,000 Kw per year. The article says that this, together with another similar scheme, cost 6.3 million euros - I would love to believe that such endeavours are, or will become, economically viable.

How much would it cost to build a 300 car parking garage without solar panels?

The thing is, solar panels are already getting pretty cheap. With a project like this, the panel costs alone may not even be the dominant factor.
posted by delmoi at 2:12 AM on April 13, 2012


Free? Who paid for it and how much?

Maybe it was paid for out of 10% of the savings from not buying all that oil, shipping it, converting it to gas and cleaning up the resulting messes.
posted by DU at 4:39 AM on April 13, 2012


So why don't they just have fold-out solar pannels you can pop up whenever you park anywhere? I mean my dad does it for his boat battery on a small scale with something smaller than my monitor and I know they've got flexible solar pannels that they intall on all sorts of stuff like backpacks, why not just have this thing you unroll/unfold and you can charge anywhere on any sunny day?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:32 AM on April 13, 2012


I assume the boat battery is just used for the ignition, lights, radio, etc similar to a normal (i.e. an gas engine) car.

This is for electric cars, where the motive power of the vehicle is electricity. You need something a LOT bigger than a computer monitor to capture enough energy in a few hours.
posted by DU at 6:07 AM on April 13, 2012


You need something a LOT bigger than a computer monitor to capture enough energy in a few hours.
Would it fit in the boot of a car?
posted by fullerine at 6:14 AM on April 13, 2012


I think you'd have to run the numbers on that. Factors include your latitude, number of sunny hours a day, PV efficiency, PV flexibility, car efficiency and distance you need to drive. I think a theoretical solution would be possible but a practical one not.

However, that's for 100% conversion to solar power. There are no magic bullets. A 50% or 25% or even 10% conversion would be a big help. Getting 10% of your car's power directly from sunshine should be possible. It doesn't sound like much but imagine how much your life would change with a 10% pay raise. Then add to that a 10% improvement in other areas (vehicle weight, say, or working your 80 hours every two weeks in only 9 days to eliminate 10% of your commuting) and it starts to look like a huge change.
posted by DU at 7:12 AM on April 13, 2012


I've often wished that companies with gigantic parking lots would do this. It's an excellent bit of pro-environment PR, and it's a win-win for everybody. The company gets PR and, eventually, can sell the electricity at a profit; a few customers get free charging and all of them get shaded parking. And everybody benefits from less fossil fuel use, and since it's a paved lot anyway there's no significant environmental disruption.

The massive parking lots at Disney World, for example, just cry out for this kind of thing. And it's even thematically appropriate for Epcot, with its emphasis on technology and progress.
posted by jedicus at 8:18 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You need something a LOT bigger than a computer monitor to capture enough energy in a few hours.

Would it fit in the boot of a car?


Sure, that's why it would fold up to be say, the size of, say, a briefcase and open to cover the top space of the car. For that matter, why not just make the top/hood/trunk lid of the car out of solar panels?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:02 AM on April 13, 2012


Or rather, cover them with panels (obviously they wouldn't be stong enough to make the hood and such out of).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:02 AM on April 13, 2012


Huh. My old high school recently put up a bunch of what I thought were over-engineered awnings in the parking lot. Nice! Keep the cars cool! And now I understand what is on top of those "awnings".
posted by SPrintF at 7:55 PM on April 13, 2012


The top surfaces of a car are ~3 m2. Over 8 hours parked under full sun, you would intercept, at the absolute most, 24 kwh (you would not remotely capture this much except at the equator and if your car was parked on a gimbal that pointed at the sun, but whatever). PV panels are about 10-15% efficienct, so you actually store about 3 kwh. How far can you drive on that, assuming your electric car goes about as far per unit energy as your gas car does?

Gasoline contains about 35 MJ/L (9.7 kW·h/L, 132 MJ/US gal, 36.6 kWh/US gal) (higher heating value) or 13 kWh/kg. - Wikipedia

Basically, you've harvested less than 1/3 of a gallon. At 30 mpg efficiency of your car, that means you can drive maybe 8 miles.

However, I agree that cars *should* have solar panels on them. But so should parking garages.
posted by DU at 4:25 AM on April 14, 2012


At 30 mpg efficiency of your car

Careful with that assumption; a good all-electric drive should get you at least 3x the efficiency of a good combustion engine.

Also, a full size car is about 5m long and maybe 1.5m wide; removing glazed area as seen from above, that makes the available collection area closer to 5m2 than 3; also, the glazing might not actually need full removal given the availability of thin film PV glazing tint materials.

10% conversion efficiency is pessimistic given good cells but let that stand because of angling considerations.

Together these adjustments should bring your back-of-the-envelope 8 miles up to maybe 40, which is in a pretty useful ballpark for a lot of two-way daily commutes.
posted by flabdablet at 4:42 AM on April 14, 2012


The local school district just put up some solar panels similar to this to help offset the cost of electricity. The high school students got covered parking. :)
posted by Val_E_Yum at 12:55 PM on April 14, 2012


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