On hot, sunny days when air conditioners threaten to overload the power grid, solar power generation makes a lot of sense. Solar panels produce the most electricity exactly when demand peaks, so they reduce the load on conventional power plants at the right time. Solar panels also cleanly and quietly produce power exactly where it is consumed, so they help to prevent power outages caused by overloaded transmission lines.
Although the demand for electricity peaks on days when the sun shines brightest, solar power accounts for less than 1 percent of California's total electricity supply. But solar panels have found a promising new place in the sun on canopies above the parking lots that surround commercial and industrial buildings. The solar panels not only provide electricity for the buildings, but also shade for the parked cars.
Parking lots in asphalt-rich cities have great solar potential because the panels can be oriented to optimize power production during summer afternoons when electricity is most valuable. Google, for example, has installed solar canopies on its parking lots to satisfy 30 percent of its headquarters' power demand....MORE