• What: Contractors are in the process of transforming the parking lot outside Greenlife Grocery from useless asphalt to “the future,” as Patrick West, project manager for contractor Sustainable Future refers to the new solar carport. The plan is to build a carport above 12 parking spaces which will support solar panels above, and five electric vehicle chargers below. The system, which generates enough electricity to power five to six houses, will be complete by the end of July.
• Company: Park Mills Properties
• Location: Greenlife Grocery parking lot
• How it’s green: The carport will use 132 solar modules made in Memphis to capture 33.84 kilowatts of sunlight as it hits the roof. Below, five electric vehicle chargers will allow electric vehicles to recharge their batteries while their owners go shopping. Electric-powered cars reduce oil dependence, though coal-fired plants that light up the majority of the grid still cause some pollution.
• Why do it this way?: Using solar power to take advantage of the relatively sunny and open nature of a parking lot is preferable to the alternative, which is simply having a mass of hot blacktop that only absorbs energy without turning it into anything useful.
• What’s the cost? The entire project will cost just over $200,000, including about $15,000 to install the federally subsidized vehicle chargers.
• Advice for others: “You can put solar pretty much everywhere,” said West. However, the economic payback with government subsidies on a residential system fluctuates from 10 to 15 years, assuming all other things remain equal. For a commercial system, with financing, payback can take from five to 10 years.
Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...