On a clear day at noon in the temperate zone, there’s about a kilowatt – 1000 watts – of energy falling on every square foot of open ground. A free kilowatt, if you could capture it. Of course, energy harvesting technology isn’t totally efficient: most photovoltaic solar panels only output usable electricity equal to about 15% of the energy that falls on them. Even so, if you harvested the sunlight from an average parking space, 162 sf, you could produce about 24 kilowatts. Generating that kind of energy without burning any fossil fuels could save some nice money, and reduce some nasty pollution.
If your solar panels were eight feet off the ground, you could park your car under them to keep it cool, too. And if you happened to own a large parking lot, and solar-paneled all the spaces, you’d have it “made,” so to speak: a sizeable financial resource, a large environmental benefit, and covered parking.
That was the kind thinking that made Dell Loy Hansen, primary owner of the Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer team, decide to put solar carports on the parking lot of Rio Tinto Stadium.