This page discuses solar PV installations in car parks, such
as those at shopping centres.
|Simple shaded car park
|At Mount Gambier, South Australia's coolest city|
I believe there is another at Port Lincoln, SA's second coolest city
The car park in the photo on the right is in a new shopping centre in Mount
Gambier, the coolest city in South Australia.
The owners of the centre must have decided that the extra custom that a
shaded car park would bring was worth the cost of building the shade
(The photo shows only a very small part of the entire shaded car park.)
The cost of installing solar panels rather than simple shade sails would
not be huge, and they would create income.
One of the advantages of having the solar shade in a shopping centre car park
is that supermarkets have high power consumption for running freezers,
refrigerators, air conditioning/heating and lights all the time the PV
installation would be generating.
The power could be sold to the shopping centre proprietors at retail prices
rather than going into the grid and earning only wholesale prices.
In terms of viability and competitiveness solar shaded car parks have
four important features:
- Solar photovoltaic installations have become very economically
competitive to other forms of electricity generation.
- The capital costs of a solar power installation is high, but operational
and maintenance costs are very low;
- Shade in car parks in the warmer parts of Australia (and other warm or
is valuable and will attract customers to whatever businesses are nearby;
- Supermarkets, hospitals and a number of other facilities use both car
parks and large amounts of electricity
The last two of these features sets solar shaded car parks apart from other
solar power installations.
|Solar exposure in Australia
|This shows that the northern and western settled areas
of SA are very well suited to solar power generation; even by the general
high standards in Australia.
The map shows only the solar power available;
solar PV panels work most efficiently at lower temperatures, this factor
would make the southern regions comparatively more competitive than the map
Graphic credit: Bureau of Meteorology
Solar panels could be put onto a roof, but then they only have one purpose
– to generate electricity – if they are used in car parks they
also provide valuable shade.
- Generation of green power
- Shade in the warmer weather
(The Mount Gambier shade installation
above shows that shopping centres may well shade their
car parks in future; the solar panels can be incorporated as an integral
part of the shade structures.)
- Greenhouse mitigation
- Environmentally friendly
- A local investment controlled by local people, not by remote and
- Opportunity for people to place their savings in an ethical and local
investment and receive a significant return
- Not controversial (unlike
everyone seems to accept solar power)
If there is more than one shopping centre in an area and solar shades are
offered to both, but one refuses, then that one will lose business to the
|Woolworths Clare, SA, supermarket car-park
The car-park shades in this photo were installed in Woolworths' Clare, SA
supermarket in late 2017.
This is a lost opportunity; the same area, which I estimated as 660m2, covered with solar panels would have an installed capacity of about 143kW, and that would generate a substantial part of the supermarket's power needs.
To cover a car park with solar panels would cost more than the way Woolworths
have done it, but the difference wouldn't be huge; and the panels would pay
for the difference in a few years of reduced electricity bills for the
On top of that, if Woolworths were to reduce their consumption of electricity
from the grid they would also be reducing the nation's greenhouse emissions and doing a favour to the planet and to future generations.
Giles Parkinson wrote in September of 2015 about
Woolworths and solar energy in a piece headlined "Woolworths builds solar portfolio to 1.2MW, well short of 320MW mooted in 2010".
In that piece he quoted a spokesman for Woolworths as saying:
“Woolworths has a well established commitment to energy efficiency, low carbon technology and renewables”.
Parkinson also wrote:
"In a submission to the Victorian government going back to 2010, Woolworths suggested that it had more than 3.2 million square metres of roof space across the country, which it said could accommodate total capacity of 320MW."
The amount of solar that Woolworths have actually installed has not done justice to their earlier aspirations or to the Australian people.
The section of the car-park shown in the photo is usually near full; especially since the shade has been installed.
This photo was taken early in the morning of New Year's Day 2018.
Why did they install the shades?
The only other supermarket in Clare is Foodland.
The car-parks at the rear of Foodland have a fair amount of shade.
I suspect that Woolworths' reasoning would be to encourage those shoppers who are aware of the advantages of parking in the shade to shop at Woolworths rather than Foodland.
There will not be a great incentive for shopping centres that have well
used car parks to attract more clientele by installing shading; if
their car parks are well used they will see little to be gained by providing
shopping centres will want to do everything possible to rapidly get a
market share, and installing shade in their car parks will be one way of
attracting shoppers away from the established centres.
So perhaps the best opportunity will be to offer this to new shopping
This is when the power generated by the solar installation is consumed
locally at retail prices rather than being sold into the grid at low
I believe that many people (including myself) no longer trust companies
listed on the stock exchanges.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the big companies are being run
primarily for the benefit of those
who control them rather than for the investors or the customers; consider the findings of the Royal Commission on Australia's banking practices.
A lot of people, I believe, would prefer to invest in a small, local and
environmentally friendly solar power installation that they can see
and touch rather than placing their
money into the hands of greedy corporate executives.
The shaded car park at the Mount Gambier shopping centre discussed at the
top of this page
shows that at least some shopping centre owners are realising that shade in car parks is valuable in helping to attract customers.
The cost of solar PV installations was, at the time of writing, at a point where it was close to financially viable, for 'behind-the-meter' installations without
government incentives; and there was every reason to believe that it would become cheaper in the future.
Solar PV installations will soon start appearing in car parks simply because
it makes financial sense.
Of course capital must be found for such installations, and green community
investment schemes are a way that this capital could be raised.
Solar car park shade at university in Queensland
An article in
, 2017/05/26, discusses a 1.1MW solar car park shade at the University of South-East Queensland.
"About 3,800 solar PV panels cover an area equivalent to about four football fields, enough for 449 cars.
It’s part a $6 million, 2MW rollout that will include rooftop installations at three other USQ campuses. The institution hopes its carbon emissions of 16,000 tonnes a year will be cut by 20%, where purchased electricity accounts for about 88% of emissions."
Solar car park shade in Adelaide, South Australia
Flinders University installed a large solar PV car park shade
in the second half of 2018 at one of its campuses.
Almost 6000 panels were installed with a capacity of 1.8 MW; it has been estimated that they will generate 2,700 MWh per year.
I took the photo on the right in early March 2020 during a
Wind Farm Noise Sleep Study that my wife and I took part in as subjects.
It shows only a part of one of a number of sections of the solar installation.
Solar car park shade in Ipswich, Queensland
|Ipswich solar shaded car park
|Image credit OneStepOffTheGrid
One Step off the Grid
a piece written by Sophie Vorrath on 2015/10/23 about "one of Australia's
largest solar carports" newly completed in Ipswich, near Brisbane, Queensland.
It has an installed capacity of 100kW and is expected to cut the energy
costs of the owner by between 30 and 40 percent.