Harnessing the Power of Solar: Advantages of Off-Grid EV Chargers for Parking Lots


Harnessing the Power of Solar: Advantages of Off-Grid EV Chargers for Parking Lots

Tom McCalmont


With the increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs), experts project there will be over 24 million EVs on U.S. roads by 2030. As this trend gains momentum, the need for more charging stations becomes paramount to accommodate the growing number of EVs. Parking lots, in particular, will experience a surge in demand for charging infrastructure. 


Cities like Portland and San Diego have already taken the lead by requiring property owners to incorporate EV charging facilities in their parking lots. While this is a positive step towards enhancing accessibility, significant obstacles hinder business owners from installing parking lot chargers, impeding widespread adoption.


Solar energy presents an ideal and environmentally friendly solution for powering EV chargers, offering clean energy and numerous business advantages such as tax credits and attracting a broader customer base. However, the electrical infrastructure of many parking lots is not originally designed to accommodate the high load demands of EV charging. Consequently, lot owners often face unexpected costs when implementing EV charging infrastructure.


Off-grid solar-powered EV charging offers a solution to the challenges associated with grid interconnection while simultaneously providing added value to companies supporting the expansion of EV adoption.


Beyond Traditional Infrastructure: 


Exploring New Possibilities


Harnessing the available overhead space in parking lots for solar panels and combining it with EV charging technology presents a compelling combination. However, the installation of grid-connected solar systems in parking lots is not a straightforward process. Traditionally, parking lots are built without access to grid power or have limited grid connections that can only support low-load applications like ticket machines or security lighting. The power demand from grid-connected EV chargers exceeds the capacity of the existing grid connection in parking lots.


While expanding the grid may appear to be a solution, the reality is that it comes with high costs and time-consuming processes. Additionally, unlike roof-mounted installations, parking lot solar projects require expensive steel canopy infrastructure, which can be up to 40 percent costlier due to additional materials, labor, and engineering requirements. These challenges make it financially burdensome to adopt grid-tied solar solutions and meet the increasing demand for EV chargers.


Fortunately, a solution exists: off-grid, solar-powered EV chargers offer numerous benefits comparable to grid-connected counterparts but with lower costs and quicker installation. With advancements in technology, innovative options like pop-up, off-grid solar arrays equipped with batteries and EV chargers can be swiftly deployed and relocated as required. These off-grid alternatives eliminate the reliance on utility grid connections, thereby circumventing prolonged installation delays and excessive expenses. Moreover, they provide greater flexibility in system placement and design, offering businesses more freedom and adaptability in implementing EV charging infrastructure.


An additional advantage of off-grid solar-powered EV chargers is their ability to be installed in smaller areas without access to grid power, such as municipal parking lots near parks or beaches, where establishing a power supply has traditionally been challenging or nonexistent. Off-grid charging presents an affordable and accessible solution for these locations, overcoming previous limitations and expanding the reach of EV charging infrastructure.


Growing Demand Driven by Proven Business Value


Off-grid solar-powered chargers offer numerous advantages. Firstly, these independent systems provide resilience and availability during emergencies when the grid may experience outages. Additionally, they eliminate the risk of power interruptions and contribute to reducing electricity bills by utilizing free solar energy instead of paid utility power. By relying on 100 percent clean energy, businesses showcase their commitment to sustainability, leaving a positive impression on visitors, clients, employees, and city officials. 


Prominent corporations have recognized the importance of EV charging infrastructure and are taking substantial steps to implement it. Walmart, for instance, has embarked on a mission to install thousands of EV chargers at its U.S. stores by 2030, with plans to own and operate them nationwide. This strategic initiative is particularly impactful considering Walmart’s extensive presence, with over 4,700 stores and 600 Sam’s Clubs located within a ten-mile radius of approximately 90 percent of Americans. The widespread deployment of EV chargers through this initiative will significantly enhance charging accessibility for countless EV drivers. 


Similarly, Subway has committed to installing electric vehicle charging stations at new or renovated locations across the United States. Additionally, 7-Eleven has launched its own EV fast-charging network, known as 7Charge, and is expanding across several states, including Florida, Texas, Colorado, and California. These noteworthy endeavors from major corporations underscore their commitment to supporting the growth of EV charging infrastructure.


As major corporations make significant commitments to EV charging, it becomes evident that various infrastructure requirements must be met to accommodate these initiatives. This highlights the increasing business advantages of EV charging and signals a trend that other businesses will likely embrace. Moreover, as cities and corporations intensify their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable transportation, the demand for EV charging infrastructure is poised to surge. Off-grid charging emerges as an innovative and practical solution to fulfill these commitments, harnessing the power of ultra-clean solar energy to meet the rising demand for EV charging infrastructure.


Unleashing Untapped Potential


Over the past two decades, parking lots have occupied a significant portion, ranging from two to five percent, of urban land in the United States. As cars have become the preferred mode of transportation for Americans, cities have been developed with a strong emphasis on accommodating vehicles, resulting in hundreds of millions of parking spaces. Imagining a scenario where half of these parking spaces were covered with solar panels, the potential for generating substantial solar capacity becomes evident. By leveraging the collaborative efforts of governments and corporations, an opportunity arises to tap into this untapped potential, reaping numerous benefits as we transition toward the next generation of vehicles.


Tom McCalmont is the CEO and Co-founder of Paired Power, a manufacturer of innovative products that pair solar power with electric vehicle and energy storage technology. Tom has been a successful entrepreneur and engineer within the solar industry for over two decades and holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and a Doctorate of Science from Muskingum University. He can be reached at tom.mccalmont@pairedpower.com

Article contributed by:
Tom McCalmont, Paired Power
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