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Installing solar panels on buildings isn’t to everyone’s taste, despite the obvious environmental benefits of renewable energy. But few can argue that solar panels would detract from the appearance of parking lots – structures that aren’t known for their aesthetic appeal.
France is in the process of passing a law that would require the owners of large parking lots to build a solar panel-covered canopy over at least half of the lot’s surface. It’s an ingenious way to install a vast number of solar panels without taking valuable land away from agricultural use. Nor will their construction negatively impact biodiversity or spoil the appearance of beautiful historic buildings. The energy from the solar panels can be used to cleanly and efficiently power the businesses and wider community served by the parking lots, as well as the electric vehicles that park there.
France is already a world leader in using electricity derived from nuclear power plants. However, although this means the country’s power production has low emissions, France is lagging behind EU requirements on renewable energy. Collectively, the new parking lot solar panels could contribute between 6.75 gigawatts and 11.25 gigawatts – about the equivalent of 10 nuclear power plants. This could increase France’s electrical capacity by around 8%.
Serving up solar:
- In addition to the parking lot project, France’s new Law for the Acceleration of the Production of Renewable Energy promotes the use of wind power and will make it easier to install solar panels near highways.
- The legislation is expected the pass the French Senate this week and will then be approved by President Emmanuel Macron, with the law going into effect in July. Depending on the size of their lot, owners will have between three and five years to install the canopies.
- Engineering professor Joshua Pearce of Western University in Ontario has calculated that if all the Walmarts in the United States installed solar panels on their roofs and parking lots, they could have a capacity of around 11 gigawatts of electricity.