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Parking lots are becoming as important as cars in climate change efforts

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It’s not just cars that will experience the energy transition in the years to come. The parking lots where electric vehicles charge are the subject of increasing construction efforts linked to climate change and the reduction of carbon emissions.

A law approved in France last month requires car parks with 80 or more spaces to be covered with solar panels within the next five years. For the largest car parks, those with more than 400 spaces, three years have been granted to have at least half of the car park surface covered by solar power.

Similar renewable energy design ideas are expected to gain more market share in the United States, if not necessarily through a federal mandate.

“You’ll see a lot of the same things you see in France and other countries, but it probably won’t necessarily play out the same way, in terms of federal action versus state action,” said Bill Abolt, vice president and head of energy business for infrastructure consulting firm AECOM.

As local and state governments create mandates for renewable energy deployment and the federal government takes an incentive approach to encouraging climate technology through measures such as the Cut Inflation Act, big business make their own commitments to solar energy.

Target, Home Depot, Walmart and renewable energy

Target revamped one of its California stores with solar panel carports this spring. The Home Depot is striving to have all of its stores using only renewable energy by 2030, while Walmart hopes to achieve this by 2040. Those efforts won’t just come from generating renewable energy on place – of renewable energy supply from utility scale. projects are among the strategic options to achieve these goals, but investing in solar power for store locations will become more mainstream.

“You have a lot of significant companies that have stepped up and made commitments to renewable energy and similar things with governments and local institutions. So there’s no doubt that this level of investment has accelerated the development of the technology. , deploying more cost-effective solar solutions,” Abolt said.

The cost of installing solar power has dropped more than 60% over the past decade, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“There is no doubt that the cost curve for solar energy is improving all the time and will continue to do so. Private companies have done a lot, and we see even more private investment likely to occur as a result. “, Abolt said. .

Global commercial real estate firm CBRE is partnering with renewable energy company Altus Power to work with clients, including many Fortune 500 companies, on solar projects.

“Topics that are on the minds of these companies right now are decarbonization, energy efficiency and energy resilience,” said Lars Norell, co-founder and co-CEO of Altus Power. “The No. 1 answer is clean building energy,” he said.

Norell said it is now possible for businesses of all sizes to consider renewable energy projects.

“Something that Walmart or IKEA or Amazon do, small family businesses come to us and say, ‘Should we do the same thing? Could our roof contain solar energy?’ The answer in almost all of these cases is absolutely yes,” he said.

Public expectations and pressure from corporate boards are key factors in why big companies tend to move faster than smaller companies when it comes to renewable energy. “In many cases, small businesses don’t have such an audience that expects them to act, but a lot of them act in some way out of self-interest or because they want to save money. money,” Norell said.

Solar energy and commercial real estate

Solar carports and rooftop solar panels are the leading solar designs adopted in the commercial real estate world.

“We find there’s almost no debate about the wisdom of installing solar in a parking lot,” Norell said. “We believe solar power on rooftops and carports will be easier for most communities to accept, but also to adopt as a way to generate clean energy.”

In recent years, an increasing number of solar projects have been built on commercial parking lots, and state governments have created incentives specifically for solar carports, including Massachusetts’ 2018 Renewable Solar Target and the Maryland Energy Administration’s Solar Canopy Grant Program, which provides funding. to encourage the use of solar carports and parking garages, with EV chargers included on site. It provided up to $250,000 per solar carport project, creating an incentive for commercial companies to invest in the projects.

“Rising electricity prices and more government support, like in France where they have mandated it, we believe will mean more car parks will have carports,” Norell said.

Shopping centers and logistics buildings are prime targets for solar energy. Commercial retail centers, such as grocery stores, use more energy and often have large parking lots. Logistics buildings like warehouses feature large roofs which are optimal places to implement rooftop solar energy.

Altus Power predicts that most buildings will be equipped with a solar energy system within the next decade.

With growing production and consumption of electric vehicles – the International Energy Agency reported that US electric car sales doubled their market share to 4.5% in 2021, reaching 630,000 vehicles electric vehicles sold – commercial solar-powered businesses are becoming more advantageous for consumers requiring electric vehicle chargers in parking lots.

The same will apply to warehouses and distribution centers.

“Once we start having fleets of electric vans and trucks, all of those trucks come into these logistics buildings, and it’s a great place to put fleet chargers, so when the truck is busy.. .we’re taking the opportunity to charge his electric battery as well,” Norell said. “We can charge him with clean electricity because we’re generating solar power on the roof, and that then goes into the truck. .”

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