Solar Carports

solar carport at Google
Solar carport at Google


Driveways and parking lots wherever photovoltaic solar panels are effective.


solar, photovoltaic panels, plug-in electric vehicles, PHEVs, charging stations, cars, parking lots, driveways, carports, urban heat islands

Predecessor Patterns

. . . One way to spread Small Energy Sources Everywhere is to power everything possible with photovoltaic solar panels. Other than rooftops (and outdoor green spaces), the largest urban areas available for solar panels are driveways and parking lots, ideal places for solar carports. Where Plug-in Electric Vehicles are parked, solar carports are especially effective to increase their driving ranges under electric power.

Problem Summary

Where vehicles are parked under the sun a potential space for photovoltaic solar panels is wasted, especially for extending the range of plug-in electric vehicles.


In the typical American city upwards of 50% of the land area is devoted to streets and parking. Large shopping centers, corporate offices, manufacturing facilities, theme parks and airports typically have huge open-air parking lots, creating an "asphalt desert" which increases ground surface temperatures like big solar collectors. Together with streets these contribute to the phenomenon of "urban heat islands" causing some cities to be more than 10 degrees hotter than their surroundings. These open-air parking lots represent a huge amount of space that could be used to generate electricity, as well as providing other benefits, if they were covered with photovoltaic panels to make "solar carports".

Solar carports not only provide a source of renewable electric energy, they provide shelter from the sun, rain and snow for the vehicles. Considering the potential to reduce urban warming and to provide a ready supply of current to charge batteries in plug-in electric vehicles, covering parking spaces with solar panels is arguably a more effective environmental solution than putting them on the roofs of buildings. (This would be especially true if adjacent building construction isn't suitable to be retrofitted with solar panels.)

Solar carports and parking lots with charging stations would greatly increase the range of plug-in electric vehicles under electric power alone. The best places for these are where plug-in vehicles are parked for most of the daytime, such as at the workplace. Google's RechargeIT experiment did just that; they built solar carports so that their plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could be charged while the employees were inside working. Where plug-in vehicles not used to commute to work are parked for most of the day, whether in driveways at single-family houses or in parking lots at apartment buildings, open-air parking could also be covered with solar carports.

Solar parking lots at shopping centers, theme parks, airports, etc. could include an additional fee for those choosing to charge their plug-in electric vehicles while they're parked. When the patrons are done shopping or being entertained, or have returned from a trip, their plug-in battery electric cars could be charged enough to return them home solely on cheap electricity instead of expensive fossil fuel.

Solution Summary


Everywhere vehicles are parked in open-air driveways and parking lots, shelter them with photovoltaic panels to create solar carports and entire solar parking lots. Provide electric outlets to charge the batteries in plug-in electric vehicles while they are parked.

Successor Patterns

Where feasible, equip the solar carports with Smart Meters to connect them to the (smart) electric grid, and in addition, connect the electric vehicles they charge and shelter with Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology. . . .


  1. Solar Panel Project at Google.
  2. RechargeIT Driving Experiment at Google.


Gary Swift, 07 February 2009.
Last updated:

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