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Clean Power a new solar parking lot has been completed at the u.s. navy facility at seal beach, california

Published on September 20th, 2010 | by Tina Casey


U.S. Navy Puts Seal of Approval on New Solar Parking Lot

September 20th, 2010 by  

a new solar parking lot has been completed at the u.s. navy facility at seal beach, californiaThe 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.

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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • i love what I see. Keep up the good, green, work.

  • Captain Morgan

    “thanks to funding from the federal Recovery Act”

    I think what you meant to say is … “thanks to still more deficit spending which will be added to the crushing debt that is heaped upon the lowly taxpayers of the nation, who will see no real benefit from the project.”

    Don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for clean energy and environmentally friendly policies … when they make financial sense and when the people benefiting from the project are also the people who are footing the bill.

    • Tina Casey

      Captain Morgan: Thank you for your comment. I can’t say that I agree with your thumbnail characterization of taxpayers (I for one am not lowly), or your general distaste for deficit spending under the Obama administration (the Bush administration inherited a budget surplus and turned it into a deficit of historic proportions, then left it for the next administration to clean up) but I do agree that clean energy and sound environmental policy should be supported when they promote the general welfare. The U.S. military has been urging the adoption of renewable energy generated on site as a vital national security interest, and the cost of fossil fuels continues to climb while the cost of renewable energy continues to drop, so I don’t see where we are hurt financially by the installation of more solar energy at our military facilities.

  • Mike

    1.9 Million to save 30,000 a year is a 63 year return on investment. Even if electrical costs increase the equipment will never last long enough to see a savings.

    • Tina Casey

      Mike: A good point, but return on investment is not the only motive behind the military’s shift to alternative energy. Energy security is also an important factor.

  • Ray

    is this like creating an electric fork.

    • Tina Casey

      Ray: No.

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