Considering the Multi-Functional Aspects of Renewable Energy

The topic of Solar Canopies has come up many times in my presentations on sustainability in Southern Colorado. The idea behind a solar canopy is in maximizing the benefit of each photovoltaic panel.  When most people think of photovoltaic panels, they consider them as an appendage that is commonly added to the rooftop of a pitched roof.  In larger applications, they are typically arranged in a grid on the ground surface or across a large flat roof top.

As a part of the sustainability reviews that I provide for Sustainable Fort Carson, renewable energy is often the primary topic of conversation.  Solar is by far the most popular renewable resource in Southern Colorado due to the 300 days of sun on average each year.  The conversation typically involves where the PV’s should be located.

In areas such as Fort Carson, land is precious and locating solar arrays on perfectly developable land is rarely an option.  Fort Carson is home to a 2 MegaWatt solar array today that sits on an old landfill. However, the array can only provide energy for 2.3% of the Installation’s needs.

Recently, Fort Carson constructed solar canopies atop a parking lot in the primary cantonment area.  The raised solar canopy will soon begin to generate 235 KW of energy for the Installation.  The following are the benefits to the Solar Canopy System:

  1. Renewable Energy Generation
  2. Sheltered Parking and its multitude of benefits to the vehicle owners
  3. Decreased Heat Island Effect from the Parking Lot
  4. Decreased land consumption necessary for greater Installation Density and Conservation of Valuable Training Lands

As cities, campuses, and military installations consider their resiliency with renewable energy, maximizing the net value of each panel is very important. Solar canopies are only one way to provide this maximum benefit, but here are some other ideas in how a solar canopy could be used: picnic shelters; awnings; solar oriented front porches; and a multitude of other creative uses that we have not thought about yet.

I hope that this blog post inspires you to rethink how photovoltaic panels and other renewable energy mechanisms can be used for your projects.  If you have something creative and/or specific in mind, please feel free to email me and I would be happy to help you brainstorm in the name of holistic sustainability.

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