June 27, 2005 | 6 Comments
Rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) projects can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to get as many solar panels as possible facing the sun. Those big projects, however, and the effort behind them, can often be hidden from plain sight where they could otherwise help promote the solar project owner's commitment and the technology approach itself. Shaded solar car-ports offer a solution.One of the latest examples comes from Kyocera solar, which held a public dedication for a new 235 kW PV system located at their North American Headquarters in San Diego. The company is calling the system a "Solar Grove", with each of 25 separate PV arrays akin to trees which act to shade the vehicles while thriving off the sunlight. The system's 25 "solar trees" form a carport in an employee parking lot, using a total of 1,400 Kyocera KC-187G solar PV modules and 200 custom-manufactured, light-filtering PV modules. A total of 186 vehicles gain respite from the sun, while the project generates up to 421,000 kWh per year -- the equivalent to the electrical needs of 68 typical San Diego homes. "The Solar Grove will serve as a symbol of Kyocera's goal to make the San Diego/Tijuana region an important hub in North America's solar energy industry," said the company. "Its unique concept models the life process of natural trees by converting sunlight into energy without adding carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere -- while providing structures that are both shade-producing and aesthetically pleasing. Kyocera commissioned the architecture firm of Tucker Sadler to design the Solar Grove, under the direction of its CEO and Principal, Robert Noble. "We chose an architectural firm with an environmental philosophy similar to that of Kyocera," said Arthur Nishioka, Planning and Development Group manager at Kyocera International, Inc. "Tucker Sadler has demonstrated an abiding interest in preserving the environment by designing buildings that emphasize sustainability through efficient energy consumption, conservation and recycling." As with all projects in California, state rebates help knock the cost of the installation down. The project was supported by California Public Utilities Commission's "Self Generation Incentive Program," which will cover approximately 36 percent of the system's purchase and installation costs; as well as federal and state tax credits, and a five-year accelerated depreciation schedule. Kyocera anticipates that the Solar Grove will pay for itself within 12 years. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Power Profiler, generating 421,000 kWh per year through conventional fossil fuel resources would annually release 338,905 pounds of carbon dioxide, a suspected contributor to global warming; 421 pounds of nitrous oxide, which has been linked to the destruction of the Earth's ozone layer; and 253 pounds of sulfur dioxide, the principal contributor to acid rain. "The economic viability of PV systems and their positive impact on our environment represent a significant opportunity for businesses throughout California," said Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar, Inc. "By installing this very attractive system on a Kyocera facility, we are setting a new benchmark for commercial PV installations, and leading San Diego into the solar age."
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