Parking Garages, Bus Shelters, Roads As Solar Producers

I spend a lot of time on the road - my family is in the Bay area, my wife's family is in Southern California and my daughter will soon be living in Oregon - and often wonder if all those flat roofs I see couldn't be put to more productive use.

Car ports. Bus shelters. Acres of wasted space atop warehouses and distribution centers. Even the miles of roadways and sidewalks. Could they somehow be doing double duty? Perhaps generating power as they bake in the summer sun.

As it turns out, I'm not alone in my thinking. Increasingly, that's happening. We've written about solar panels on warehouses in Southern California and elsewhere. And we've noted that Fresno State University and Fresno Yosemite International Airport installed solar panels on parking structures and car ports.

Now, the city of Corona has a solar project on a bus shelter that is a mini power generator. According to, the meter will run backward on sunny days, helping offset the city's energy costs. That's a model that can be followed elsewhere; bus shelters are everywhere.

There's even talk about solar-powered roadways. Jerry Brown, who wants a do-over as California governor, has it in his green-jobs plan, and it's been touted elsewhere, including in this article by Scientific American.

Whether we ever drive on roads that help pay for themselves remains to be seen. After all, government budgets everywhere are in disarray and none of this is cheap. But wouldn't it be cool? I could drive my electric car on a solar road, generating power and helping the environment in one of the foulest air-quality regions in the nation.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.
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