You’ve likely seen solar panels on roofs, walls and even in fields. But did you know that you can install solar panels in parking lots?

Solar panel-covered parking lots have been growing in popularity over recent years thanks to their optimal use of space and, of course, the many advantages of solar power. Let’s take a closer look at how parking lot solar panels work and how they might benefit your business.

FIRST, WHAT IS A SOLAR PANEL PARKING LOT?

Solar panel parking lots are exactly what they sound like: solar panel-covered parking lots. You can install solar panels onto existing parking structures or build structures with the intention of covering them with solar panels.

And as a bonus, covering parking lots with solar panels creates a multipurpose installation.

On the one hand, you’re generating solar energy that can power everything from lighting to appliances and equipment. On the other hand, the structures holding the solar panels create shade and protect vehicles from the elements.

The result is a win-win for business owners seeking to cut energy costs while enhancing comfort for employees or customers. But let’s dig even deeper into the benefits of installing solar panels over parking lots.

BENEFITS OF SOLAR PANEL PARKING LOTS

REDUCED ELECTRICITY USAGE

The primary benefit of solar panel parking lots — like with any solar installation — is reduced energy use.

If your building is located in an area with regular sunshine, it may be able to rely on solar alone during peak sunlight hours. And if you can generate more energy than you need at any given moment, you can easily store that excess energy in a battery for later use, like after sunset.

Your business can then use this energy to power all its electrical needs, such as:

  • Lighting
  • HVAC
  • Appliances
  • Equipment and machinery
  • Electric vehicle (EV) charging

COST SAVINGS

It’s no surprise that reduced energy use results in reduced energy costs, but the potential savings go even further.

For example, if your business can generate excess energy, you can sell it to your local electrical grid rather than store it in a battery for personal use. This process is known as net metering.

You can also take advantage of both federal and local rebates and incentives to offset the installation costs.

ECO-FRIENDLINESS

It pretty much goes without saying that reduced electricity usage not only lowers costs but also is more sustainable. In addition to doing the environment good, sustainable business practices can help your business take important steps:

  • Achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, which can offer tax benefits
  • Remain compliant with any renewable energy-related local government policies or mandates
  • Take advantage of local and federal incentives
  • Improve your public image — a parking lot covered with solar panels is highly visible to the public, and consumers are largely shifting toward sustainable purchasing habits

SHADED PARKING AND PROTECTION FROM THE ELEMENTS

Anyone who’s had to park outside on a hot summer day or during stormy weather ( so just about everybody) can appreciate the benefits of covered parking.

Installing solar panels above parking lots simply creates a much more pleasant experience for whoever uses your parking space, whether that’s employees or customers. Visitors may even seek out your business over competitors as a result.

In fact, solar panel parking lot shade may provide more tangible benefits for visitors. Using air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by up to 20%, forcing drivers to fuel up more frequently during hot months.

One of the best ways to reduce AC usage (and thus fuel consumption) is to park in the shade. And that’s exactly what solar panels in parking lots provide.

PRODUCTIVE USE OF SPACE

When looking for a location to install numerous solar panels, businesses often turn to undeveloped land. But solar installations on undeveloped land often come at the cost of harm to environmental biodiversity.

Parking lot solar panels, however, create no additional risks to local ecosystems because they take advantage of already-developed land.

Parking lots also have ample available space — all you have to do is put up covered parking structures.

SOLAR PANEL PARKING LOT APPLICATIONS

Plus, solar panel parking lots lend themselves to a wide range of applications:

  • Office Buildings. Make your business more attractive to employees and clients alike by offering comfortable and secure covered parking. You can also use the energy that the solar panels above parking lots generate to power your building’s lights, HVAC and equipment, which reduces costs.
  • Warehouses. Warehouses have more electrical needs than you’d expect, such as running equipment to process inventory or HVAC for products with temperature requirements. These needs add up to 6.1 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity a year for nonrefrigerated warehouses and 24.9 kWh for refrigerated uses. Of course, this makes covering parking lots with solar panels an excellent solution to cut down on energy bills.
  • Manufacturing. In addition to using solar-generated energy to power facilities, manufacturers can use parking structures to protect fleets and equipment from the elements and overheating. Solar panel parking lot shade can also create a more comfortable working environment for those loading and unloading trucks.
  • Transportation. Like with manufacturing, solar panels in parking lots can help protect vehicles at transportation facilities, such as bus and train stations, airports and rental car facilities. This applies to both the elements and security: Covered parking lends peace of mind to travelers who leave their vehicles at, say, the airport for extended periods. And that’s especially true if you install solar panel parking lot lights and security cameras as well.
  • Car Dealerships. Car dealerships can benefit from covered parking to protect fleets from harsh weather. After all, a dealership’s vehicles are its biggest investment. Additionally, dealerships offering EVs and hybrid vehicles can use solar panels to charge them — and showcase their commitment to sustainability.
  • EV Charging Stations. Finally, solar panel-covered parking lots are the perfect solution for EV charging stations. Drivers are happy to have a sustainable charging option when away from home and appreciate the weather protection.