The U.S. Navy’s Seal Beach facility in California is now home to a new $1.9 million solar parking lot, thanks to funding from the federal Recovery Act. Aside from creating new green construction jobs, the new solar facility will save the Navy more than $30,000 per year in electrical costs. It’s just one part of an all-around solar power makeover for the Navy, which just this summer has commissioned another $100 million worth of new solar projects.
Seal Beach and Solar Power
The Navy’s Seal Beach facility is no stranger to solar power. The new installation is actually the third constructed by California company Stronghold Engineering at the base. All together, the three systems total more than 2,000 solar panels and will provide about 6.5% of the power used at Seal Beach. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 called for an increase in renewable energy use of 7.5% by 2013, so the base has practically reached its goal with a couple of years to spare. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Parking Lots as Solar Energy Powerhouses
The U.S. is paved with vast expanses of unshaded asphalt parking lots, and much of that acreage is idle at least part of the time, even during daylight hours. That’s especially true of sports and entertainment arenas. By devoting that acreage to solar energy, you get more value out of existing infrastructure, and you avoid using open space or farmland that could be put to other uses. Meanwhile you get emission-free energy to power nearby buildings or supply to the grid. Solar parking lots can also double as electric vehicle charging stations. Even the shade from the solar panels serves a sustainable purpose, by helping to extend the lifespan of the vehicles and cutting down on the need for air conditioning at start-up during hot weather.
Solar Parking Lots and Green Jobs, Too
Solar parking lots are also shaping up as important green job generators, partly due to the use of steel structural elements. Steel-mounted photovoltaic panels are starting to play a role in reviving the U.S. steel industry, for example. Along with the U.S. Navy, there are solar parking lots for the National Guard, and the private sector is practically falling head over heels in love with the concept. Just a couple of recent examples are a mammoth one million megawatt solar parking lot at New Jersey auto auction center, and a grove of energy producing solar trees at Dell’s corporate headquarters in Texas.
Image: Parking lot by Leslie Kalohi on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.