Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Nov 24

Isla Vistans get first Solar Parking Lot

Posted in Future Technology | Solar Power | Transportation

Solar Parking Lot Industrial designers are dreaming of a project like this for a long time. They wanted a solar powered parking lot which can sustain itself and light up its own lights. They also want future electric vehicles to be charged at the same place too. The spirit of Isla Vistans can be imitated. They turned out in large number for the inaugural ceremony of a new parking space at 881 Embarcadero del Mar. What was so special about a parking lot? The parking lot was constructed on a half-acre site. The interesting part is the same location used to house a Chevron gas station. Isla Vista, Santa Barbara County, California, has registered its presence in the field of clean and green energy. They established their first solar-powered car parking lot.


This solar powered parking space can accommodate 45 parking spaces. It also contains an array of 98 solar panels mounted on steel beams. These solar panels will illuminate the parking lot and will power the parking meters too. Jeff Lindgren, who is the redevelopment manager for Isla Vista, said that panels would soon be expanded to 109. These panels would generate enough electricity to light up even the Pardall Road as well.

3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr opines, “It certainly serves a model for sustainable projects to emulate throughout the county.”

What does the roof of this parking space look like? Actually the roof is made up of solar panels and beams. This double layered roof provides shade for automobiles. They have also installed a water filtration system that will aid in maintaining storm runoff clean. Four years ago, Bob Nisbet, who is the director of the county’s General Services Department, was quite skeptical about acquiring land for this purpose. He graciously admits, “The whole thing just seemed a little half-cocked to me. I’m happy to see today that I’m wrong.”

It has to be noted that parking spaces in the heart of Isla Vista are extremely difficult to find. They are considered as exceptional luxuries. People involved in this project are thinking of future too. They are of the view if people stop depending on cars as most important mode of transport then they can utilize this solar car parking space into something more beneficial for the community.

According to Lindgren this project cost the county $1.4 million for the property. Construction of the parking lot consumed $760,000, $200,000 of which went to the solar set-up.

  • The Solar Panel Guy

    That is great news!

    Does anyone know what the parking fee is going to be?

  • Jos Conil

    A great initial step towards sustainability!

  • Brandon

    $2 million for a 45 space parking lot? That isn’t sustainability, it’s our tax dollars being thrown down the toilet. The solar panels will supply enough energy for maybe one or two vehicles per day!

  • Cathy

    If there are cars in the parking lot, it seems to me that the sun will be blocked. So what is the point?

  • Cathy

    Oops! I didn’t realize the article continued and said that the parking lot roof holds the solar panels. That makes more sense. But it is “extra” – why not put solar panels on roofs that are being replaced or on new buildings?

  • Marcus

    $200,000 worth of solar panels is enough to provide around 40kw of electricity-or close to 160kw-h of electricity per day, assuming no more than 4 hours of sunlight per day. The average electric car gets around 100km out of a 15kw/h charge. So this means that even in the space of a 4 hour day, you could charge around 10 cars enough for 100km travel (though this would be excessive). Given an ordinary length commute (say 30km), & an average spring day (6 hours of Sunlight), you could actually charge around 40 cars a day. Charge a sufficient fee for use of the services (perfectly reasonable given the cost of the land) then you could recoup the cost of investment in around 15 years. The point is that the solar component is the smallest cost being borne for this project, so why do some anti-environmentalists seem so keen to bag it?

  • Marcus

    Also, Brandon, consider for a moment that these solar panels will be providing light at night-not just charging electric cars-so this is light for which the local council won’t have to pay an energy provider for. The savings from this will also add up towards paying for the project. Just try and use a little common sense buddy.

  • Yakov

    The increased car use as a result of this parking lot cancels out any “greenness” added by the solar panels. It would have been preferable to invest the money in sustainable transit.

  • Marcus

    Yakov, though I would prefer to see money invested in public transportation, its false logic to suggest this new car park will increase car use. My hope is that it might lead to more people buying electric vehicles, because they generate significantly less CO2 emissions per km travelled, even if the electricity comes from a coal-fired power station!

  • Brandon

    Marcus –

    After reading your comments I can’t help but show you the truth. Below I have left the URL’s of my sources.

    First of all, the cost of the solar panel is irrelevant. What is important, is to look at the number of solar panels they used. For theoretical purposes, we will use the most efficient solar panel on the market today. At 13.5 Watt/ft^2 and about 17.4 ft^2. The article mentions that they will have 98 Solar panels. This means that the total MAX output is 23kWh on a perfectly clear day in direct sunlight. In reality in an 8 hour period, solar panels may collect 50% of that max power. Therefore in 8 hours the parking lot may collect 92 kWh. Now, with this information we have to account for the lights, meters, and possible cars being charged. County’s have certain codes that require a certain number of lumins per ft^2. In order to satisfy this requirement, the lights may use nearly 15kWh. That leaves us with 77kWh. Remember, this is operating at full capacity with the most efficient solar panel available today. The meters will not use that much energy, so we will neglect them. Concerning the electric cars, on average electric vehicles require nearly 35kWh per charge however I was able to find one as low as 23kWh. Therefore, with 77kWh we would be able to charge 3.34 Cars per day. In actuality, this will vary with the weather and the position of the sun. The parking lot would be lucky to get 1-2 cars charged per day….which is what I said in the first place. I’m not sure where you are getting your facts or how you came to your conclusion, no offense, but science is not common sense. I would encourage you to look at the facts before you try to use common sense. Common sense will get you supporting a $2 million dollar parking lot that does nothing to help anybody and that will never recover the money spent. I agree with Yakov….public transportation.

    -Brandon

    Battery Capicity
    http://www.thefordstory.com/green/electric-ford-focus-is-the-car-for-stars-on-%E2%80%9Cthe-jay-leno-show%E2%80%9D/?searchid=426441|28125566|205373347

    Solar Panel
    http://www.sharpusa.com/SolarElectricity/SolarProducts/LiteratureDownloads_Archive.aspx

  • Marcus

    First, I would suggest that you not deign to lecture a SCIENTIST about science – you’ll simply end up looking like a prize goose. Second, the electricity required for a full charge is *IRRELEVELENT*, given that a single charge can give a range of between 250km-500km, depending on the vehicle. Most electric vehicles would only require sufficient charge for a 25km-50km round trip (home to work to home; home to shops to home), which would require a charge of between 5kwh-8kwh per vehicle, hence my assertion that you could get around 10-12 cars per day charged sufficiently. So please stop muddying the waters by using a full charge. The reality is far more than the 1-2 cars you’re claiming. Third, *yes* I’d prefer to see the money invested in public transport, but last time I checked we were able to walk & chew gum at the same time-& public transport isn’t perfectly suited to everyones needs. If this project encourages more people to replace their petrol burning cars with electric cars, then this would represent a step forward, especially given the cost of only $200,000 for the solar component.

  • Brandon

    Marcus –

    You being a scientist clears up a lot! I understand your argument completely, and while logical, it is very impractical. Think about the cost per Watt that one would be charged from this parking structure compared to the cost of charging your vehicle from your own home. The most expensive way to convert energy to electricity is through solar panels. Secondly, the other issue lies in regulating the amount of energy consumed. The main goal is to retrieve enough energy to power the lights and the meters. Therefore, the structure would need to first gain enough energy to satisfy that need. If one relied solely on this parking structure to recharge their vehicle enough to get them back home yet for some reason there just wasn’t enough energy there to use….then what? If it is cloudy for 10 days in a row…then what? A $2 million 45 space parking structure is absolutely ridiculous and impractical. Economically it doesn’t make any sense. But then again, I’m an engineer, not a scientist.

  • Brandon

    Oh, one last note. If you will look into DOE, you will find all of the necessary data to conclude that the carbon dioxide emissions from producing electricity (that electric cars use) is almost equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions from the average gasoline burning engine YTD (when you factor in all of the transmission losses ~ 30%). If one would argue that, instead of producing the electricity from coal and natural gas, you retrieve the energy from the sun via solar panels then one would conclude that you would need over 1,000 square feet of solar panels per electric vehicle (if you want a full charge in under 4 hours while obtaining 100% of the suns energy). That is 57 solar panels per car (which is more than half of isle Vista’s project). Therefore, you the scientist, would like to encourage people to buy a $30-80K electric vehicle plus $100K for the solar panels. I guess your next suggestion would be for the government to pay for it right? Oh wait, thats what the article is about… Santa Barbara’s tax payers paying for an impractical project that will NEVER charge more than maybe a few electric vehicles per day (in a perfect world), will probably provide enough energy to run the lights, and became the most expensive 45 space parking lot in Santa Barbara.

  • Marcus

    OK, lets look at your last claim: The average car (4 door vehicle capable of seating 5-6 people) uses about 9 litres of petrol to travel 100km-in highway travel. In peak traffic, it uses closer to 11 litres, but lets stick with highway travel. A litre of petrol generates 3.2kg of CO2, so a petrol-powered vehicle generates between 29kg of CO2 for every 100km of travel (not to mention particulate emissions, NO2 & benzene-all of which are directly hazardous to health). Now, according to the Idaho National Laboratory & the US DoE, a fully electric vehicle-of a similar size as my petrol powered example above-requires 16kw-h of electricity to travel 100km. 1kw-h of electricity from coal generates 0.9kg of CO2, so a 100km journey generates 14.5kg of CO2-if derived from coal, or 7.3kg if derived from Natural Gas-over *half* the emissions of a petrol powered vehicle. Oh & before you try & throw distribution losses into the equation, might I remind you that petrol also needs to be refined & transported to petrol stations-thus adding to the CO2 footprint of petrol-powered vehicles.

    Also, when you consider that fuel efficiency in petrol powered vehicles drops about 10%-20% in peak traffic, whilst electric vehicles increase by 5%-10% (due to regenerative braking), then you see that electric vehicles far outperform petrol powered vehicles on CO2 emissions-not to mention running costs (to run an average petrol powered vehicles 100km here in Australia would cost around AUD$12, compared to around AUD$4 for an electric vehicle.

    So you see that, for people who don’t have the option of Public Transport, electric cars do represent a major step forward in reducing transportation-related CO2 emissions.
    As to the cost to taxpayers, do you honestly think the vast array of roads & oil infrastructure in Western Countries didn’t come at massive cost to tax-payers over the last 100 years?

  • Marcus

    Lets not forget, though, as I said above-the *biggest* cost came not from the solar panels, but the cost of the land. That says something about how much you lot are being overcharged for land in the US of A-don’t try & lay the blame for the excessive cost on renewable energy, when the price of a regular parking lot would probably have cost $1.8 million.

  • Marcus

    Oh & Brandon, repeating an irrelevant point won’t suddenly make it relevant-so why do you still rely on the *full charge* of an electric vehicle, to make your point, when said charge usually delivers over 200km of range-far more than the average vehicle requires in a given day? The average electric car only requires only 15kw/h of electricity to give it sufficient charge to do around 2-3 days worth of commuting to & from work (assuming an average of 40km round trip) & 30kw-h for a full weeks worth of commuting. Now according to my reading, a 2kw system will generate an average of 1500kw-h of electricity in areas known for high numbers of cloudy days, enough for 50 weeks per year of average commuting-at a cost of US$20,000 (without rebates). Only sports-model electric vehicles cost $80,000-most cost closer to $30,000 to $40,000, & this price will fall as the market expands. The first ICE vehicles had a far higher cost-relative to income-when they first hit the market, but this didn’t stop people from buying them. My point is that as much as you try & denigrate electric vehicles & solar power, they *are* a large part of the future of transportation & power-& your resistance merely reveals you as somewhat of a LUDDITE-not exactly the kind of trait I want to see in an engineer. Maybe engineers, so caught up in “practicality”, fail to see that-had this same practicality won the day about 150 years ago, we’d all still be burning candles & riding horse & buggies. After all, the cost of generating electricity from coal & powering cars with petrol were all prohibitively expensive at the turn of the 19th century-but advances in technology & increased use brought the costs down-& the same will be true again!

  • Brandon

    To those reading these comments, I encourage you to search for the answer’s yourself. There are many “great” ideas in this world that are actually not all that great. Above are two contradictory views on an issue that will affect you the tax payer. Don’t read our comments and come to a conclusion, do the research yourself.

  • Marcus

    To those reading the above comment from Brandon, you need to realize that many of the best inventions were strongly opposed by the powerful vested interests of the day (the electric light globe being a perfect example)-& Brandon almost certainly fits the profile. After all, engineers like him build big, inefficient & massively expensive coal & nuclear power stations (all heavily subsidized by *you*, the taxpayer), & he’s probably afraid that a shift to smaller, self-contained renewable energy solutions will put Luddites like him out of business. Its worth noting that though I was able to shoot down the bulk of his arguments, he was unable to do the same to mine-this is because the CO2 output from burning a litre of petrol is *scientific fact*, as is the CO2 output from burning 1kw-h worth of coal or natural gas. Luddites like Brandon don’t like scientific fact, because it makes it harder to argue for their own self-interests. I will make 1 single correction-which is that petrol generates 2.36kg CO2 per litre, not 3.2 as I claimed. That still amounts to 21kg of CO2 per 100km of highway travel vs 14.5kg of CO2 for an electric car of a similar style-assuming it is fuelled entirely by coal.

    Now though I would prefer a world in which *everyone* got around in public transport, this would be *unrealistic* (& would almost certainly have to be funded by the tax-payer). So short of this, a world with electric-not petrol burning-vehicles is the next best thing, not only in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, but as a result of reduced toxic emissions.
    Oh & btw, the house I’m currently in has AUD$15,000 worth of solar panels & has successfully generated over 7kw-h of electricity-with another 3 hours of sunlight still left. So there is another of Brandon’s weak arguments shot to pieces. Solar *may* be expensive, but its getting cheaper & more efficient with every passing day-& its achieved that on a mere fraction of the R&D subsidies, from the government, that have been enjoyed by the nuclear & fossil fuel industries. Yet people like Brandon seem to want to deny renewable energy the same chance to thrive!

  • Marcus

    Oh, & another point I’d like to make is that the amount of power needed for the street lights would depend on the efficiency of the lamp. A “conventional” street light (fluorescent) gets only about 65 Lumens per watt, whereas a sodium lamp gets around 100 Lumens per watt (high pressure) or even 150 lumens per watt (low pressure), thus significantly reducing the power required. This power use could be reduced even more if you attach a cobra-head fitting to focus the light & prevent scattering of the illumination (which also cuts down on glare & general light pollution). All these factors could certainly be brought into play to reduce the power demand of the street lights from 15kw-h per day to less than 10kw-h per day.

  • Marcus

    Oh, another thought occurs to me. If the coal or natural gas power stations were fitted with some kind of high density biomass-generator (algal or biochar) then you could cut the CO2 emissions from electric cars to less 20% of that of petrol burning vehicles. Just FYI.

  • Brandon

    Marcus, I would love to see your source on your last point. In fact, I would love to see all of your sources.

  • Marcus

    Sorry I’ve taken so long to get back to you-but I wasn’t at my regular computer when I wrote most of the above-so didn’t have my usual array of bookmarks at my disposal. I cannot find the original source of my last point-as the link appears to have changed, however this site here-
    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ie049099z
    (though only the abstract is available free)
    lists the same results that I was relying on from my original source. To summarize, MIT connected an HDVB to its 20MW power plant, & has measured a 50%-82% reduction in CO2 emissions (depending on available sunlight), & an 85% reduction in Nitrogen Oxides. Other facilities have predicted roughly a 43% average reduction in CO2 from flue gases-based on known values of CO2 sequestration in algal species. Given that between 50%-65% of the resulting biomass can be dried, gasified & then burned for heat or electricity, then its easy to see how algal biomass can significantly reduce the CO2 emissions associated with producing electricity from coal & gas-as well as partly displacing the use of diesel fuel, coal & gas by using the by-products of CO2 sequestration instead.

  • Brandon

    You mean the source that says, “The effects of the operating variables are analyzed using a mathematical model [Wu, X.; Merchuk, J. C. Simulation of Algae Growth in a Bench Scale Internal Loop Airlift Reactor. Chem. Eng. Sci. 2004, 59 (14), 2899] that accounts for the effects of ALR geometry, fluid flow, and illumination on the biomass growth.” Can you even comprehend the size of a biomass reactor that could actually do that?

  • Marcus

    Oh &, before I forget, here is the link with the information on watts/lumen for various types of street lights.
    http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2004/MarinaAvetisyan.shtml
    The use of a so-called cobra-head fitting to reduce street-light scatter came from a print issue of ReNew magazine, but they showed a study which revealed that said fittings reduced light scatter by between 60-80%, allowing for a significant reduction in the total lumens required to achieve mandated levels of luminosity.

  • Marcus

    All of the links below are in relation to comparison of Full-electric vehicles & their Petrol Powered counterparts-as it pertains to CO2 emissions/km of travel.

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/avta/pdfs/fsev/eva_results/ev1_eva.pdf

    http://avt.inel.gov/fsev.html

    & http://web.mit.edu/evt/summary_wtw.pdf

    Its interesting to note that these links are all seemingly based on highway travel, when peak-hour inner-city travel is where the majority of vehicle emissions are generated. From my own analysis of available info, it is here where the benefits of electric vehicles over their non-electric counterparts really shines through-especially when one considers the array of other noxious chemical by-products generated by diesel & petrol fueled vehicles.

    Also note that I do *not* believe that electric vehicles are any substitute for increased car-pooling & public transport use. That said, in conjunction with greater car-pooling & public transport use, I believe EV’s have a vital role to play in reducing both CO2 emissions & “at-source” emissions of benzene, particulate emissions & oxides of nitrogen-all of which are directly harmful to human health!

  • Marcus

    Oh, & for the record Brandon, I already calculated the amount of land required to fit a bio-reactor capable of absorbing more than 50%-80% of the CO2 emissions of a 1GW coal-fired power station. It’s about 6,000 acres, assuming it was built entirely *horizontally* (i.e. an algal pond) Vertical Bio-reactors are built mostly *vertically*-so would probably take up around 1/2th to 1/3rd of the horizontal space. 3,000 acres might sound extensive, until you consider the entire acreage of a coal-fired power plant & its associated coal mine. Such a bio-reactor would fit very easily into such a space &-once built-can be generating algal biomass for use in plastics, fertilizer, animal feed, bio-diesel & biomass gas-all at 1/10th of the energy required to gasify & geo-sequester an equivalent amount of CO2.

  • Brandon

    Marcus –

    Do not fear, I’m in the process of providing my sources as well. But I had to take the time to check out your sources, which so far are quite depressing. The small blip from MIT displays the swayed information you are reading. Coppied from the MIT document, “As a result, an electric vehicle that is charged using coal produced electricity will have a much larger footprint than an EV using electricity derived from nuclear power. The data above reflects the well to wheel footprint of an EV using a “U.S. mix”. This accounts for different modes of electricity generation by modeling the EV as using each form of electricity in the same proportion as it is used in the U.S.” What is provided is a pretty plot with no evidence of their sources provided or their calculations. Going to have to do a whole lot better than that mr. scientist.

  • Janine

    I am not a scientist, nor an engineer, nor a person who believes in Global Warming. But I am interested in the development of alternative energies for the simple fact that they can be. If they are, this will increase energy independence and decrease exhaust byproducts that are harmful to our health and are at the very least disgusting to smell. Therefore, I feel more objective when I say that Marcus has won my vote. Plus we’re talking about $200K worth of tax-payer money!! Sorry the parking lot was $2MM USD, but only a tiny fraction of that was actually due to solar. (98) 220W panels (presuming) is a ~22kW system, and at a cost of $200K is about $9/W installed. I’ve seen this number go below $5/W but was probably a little high due to the shade structure it was mounted on, which does add some “value” for patrons. The cost of solar is falling at such a rapid pace that if I were to buy solar panels last year it would’ve cost me TWICE as much! As more capacity comes online and manufacturers become more efficient, we can only expect this to continue to fall. Some thin-film technologies are already quoting “sub $1/W”. I really haven’t found any reason not to like the idea of more solar and wind technologies. China polluting their own backyard to make these products would be my only gripe.


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