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back to article Brits build e-car friendly solar parking bay

British manufacturer of laminated photovoltaic solar panels Romag thinks it has the answer to all those people who can't help but bang on about electric cars not really being environmentally friendly because the power they use probably comes from a monstrous CO2 belching, Gia-strangling coal-fired power station. Its answer? A …

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Anonymous Coward

Useless

1100kWh, the yearly output, is equivalent to about 110 litres of petrol I believe...

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Pirate

Ah-ha!

I've spotted where all those green jobs Brown keeps banging on about are going to come from - 400,000 windowcleaners to wash the tops of these daily, as the efficeincy of such panels drops when they get coated in dust. Oh dear, has anyone taken into account the enviornmental impact of all those lukewarm buckets of soapy water?

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@ac 15:05

But that doesn't specify what that's from, i.e. per parking space/per pair of spaces (like the one in the picture). Plus, this won't be the only method of charging the cars up so it doesn't need to supply all of the annual power requirement.

At the very least, having a few hundred of these around the country would help to augment the power grid with some nice clean power.

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On-site storage: pointless

On-site power storage is only really feasable if you don't have national grid access, just weigh up the cost of buying a large bank of lead acid batteries (& replacing them every few years) against the cost of national grid electricty.

Basically how 'green' you go depends on how much money you're willing to spend for your electricity, only when (if?) solar panels can be bought by the end user for £1/watt will everyone start wanting an array of solar panels on their roofs. Even making your own by building the panels & soldering the wafer thin cells yourself it's difficult to get below £3/watt.

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@Useless

About 3000+ miles I think. Don't quote me on that.

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Re: Ah-ha!

Screw dust! Imagine the corrosion from a flock of pigeons/seagulls/your-local-flying-vermin-of-choice? Not to mention the local "yoofs". That thing looks like a party-sized bus-shelter roof.

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Boffin

@Haku

I think you need to revise your estimates... the last solar panels I bought were priced at £1/W (actually $1.9/W as they came from America when the exchange rate was that good).

Still works out expensive - I'm waiting for it to come down to about 50p/W including inverter/charge controller etc, then I'll replace my slate roof with photo-voltaics!

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Unhappy

@Oliver

I'm the guy you're referring to. Your points are valid. However, the amount of energy these things harvest is tiny, and the amount of energy needed to create them is huge. It's a shame, but much more effective would be to lift share or cycle instead. As Haku says, until the price plummets (and the efficiency rockets) these are greenwash.

Ironically, the weaker the sunlight the less need there is for a canopy, so a double whammy. I suppose it keeps the rain off though...

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Payback time?

How much energy does it take to build and install this thing, and to dispose of it at the end of its use? How long does it take to pay back that initial cost before you start saving anything at all?

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While we are at it ...

Subtract the energy cost of making the cells.

Photovoltaic needs to be in a sunny part of the world and vaguely near people who want electricity to come close to being green.

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Wicked

It looks like something out of The Jetsons.

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Happy

@Matt

"About 3000+ miles I think. Don't quote me on that."

Sorry. Couldn't resist :)

Clam.

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@Useless

I can confirm that, numbers as follows:

Petrol contains 34.7 MJ per litre

1kWh = 3.6 MJ (1000J x 3600s)

34.7/3.6 = 9.6kWh per litre

1100/9.6 = 114.5 litres

Unfortunately the unwashed green masses are incapable of doing calculations, so the above is neither here nor there.

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Anonymous Coward

I think it needs to do more

The Tesla Roadster reportedly has a full charge of about 50-60kWh and a range of about 240 miles. So, for argument's sake, if we peg it at 55kWh per charge, then this contraption will deliver 20 full charges per year. That's equivalent to about 4800 miles (~7700km), or around one-third of a car's annual mileage (everybody's needs differ, but 13,000 miles per annum (USA) is the only reliable figure I could find in the time available).

That may be worthwhile to a private garage owner, but for users of a "public" park-n-charge scheme, I think it needs to do more. The photo shows two charging bays, so at best (full capacity utilised - somewhat optimistic) it'll deliver 16% of a leccy car's charging requirements. Still, I suppose that's 16% that didn't have to come from other sources (such as coal) and grid connect could prove useful. In the end, it'll come down to cost per kWh.

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I see a problem

... I hope those solar cells are fixed down good and firm. Stripping the solar cells of of that is going to be a lot more remunerative than stealing the lead off church roofs.

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Forget the cars for a moment.

Those need to be over every parking space.

Protect the cars, the people, the pavement and reduce heat island effects. And it's all wasted space that we've already thoughtful removed all the pesky trees from. Plus there's already connections to the grid in the form of all those light standards.

Wether they are plugged into cars is just a distraction.

Build them. Lots of them.

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Re: Ah-ha!

Considering their business end is exposed to the elements like any other photovoltaic, I imagine any dust problems can be alleviated with a nice touch of RAIN. Now, snow and thick ice might be an issue, but those could perhaps be alleviated by tapping a little power to run defrosters as needed to keep the panels clear in winter.

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@Oliver Mayes

"At the very least, having a few hundred of these around the country would help to augment the power grid with some nice clean power."

On what basis is this clean/dirty? How much power used to create/transport/erect/maintain the panels? How many chemical processes? What waste products? What implications when end-of-life?

I'm not saying it ISN'T clean, just that there's no basis on which to state that it is so. Or not. I'd just suggest not taking it all at face/propaganda value

O

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Go

Not a new idea...

...they have already announced and started installing these in the US, California in particular.

Either way, a good start. A blend of these atop 50% of roof space, with the rest of (strong enough) roofs turned into gardens, and we'll be sorted.

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What's the opposite of green?

Even if such small-scale solar installations are economically viable, the sensible place to put them is not a public place. High up on the roof of a private dwelling sounds far better. Since we haven't all converted our roofing to solar panels, I suspect there is something wrong with the finances.

If we take 1100kWh per annum as the benefit, that's about £100 worth of petrol, so you'd need to be able to build these things for around £1000 to have a fair chance of recouping your investment, especially if you compare it with other investment options, such as just plonking your cash in the bank for years on end.

But does this make it non-green? Well, yes, at least for those of us with a finite supply of money. If I'm squandering my cash on a piss-poor scheme like this, I'm not investing in genuinely green technologies. I don't mind people continuing with research, but solar panels just aren't ready yet. If you want to "save the planet", my advice is to use technology that actually exists, like nuclear power stations, to power your electrical toys.

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Another load of codswallop?

When you manufacture one of these 'green deities' you can see by the high prices that they use a lot of energy to make, that's why they're so expensive.

e.g. £4500 for a 1500kVA max turbine!

That £4500 isn't being spent on much more than say £3500 worth of energy and resources/materials which took a lot of energy to process.

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Anonymous Coward

Petrol vs Leccy

Keep in mind the petrol car is much less efficient than an electric car, so the energy content of the petrol is pretty much a meaningless figure.

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@Tamer Shafik

Whilst I'm no fan of the capabilities of many in the ecological movement to do a few sums, you have made the mistake of not allowing for the difference in thermodynamic efficiency of a petrol engine with that of a battery/electric motor combination. That is very substantial difference, possibly as much as 2.5:1. This means the 1100KWh would be the equivalent of perhaps 250 litres of fuel per year. That's about one-third of my annual usage or about 3,000 miles (1.6lite Focus diesel).

Personally I have considerable doubts over how realistic that 1100KWh is in a UK environment and I suspect the capital costs alone will mean this isn't cost effective at this point. However, if cheap enough solar cells combined with "plug-in" hybrid cars could be produced then it might make a significant dent in annual consumption of oil for travel.

Of course there is no reason whatsoever why the solar panels have to be anywhere near where the car is parked (save for a reduction in transmission losses). By making use of the transmission system, solar power could be fed anywhere. What would then be required is "smart" charging systems in battery storage systems (such as those in cars) which drew charge when surpluses were being produced from notoriously peaky renewable electricity generation. You do not want to have to temporarily start up a bunch of gas-fueled generators in order to charge up cars. Better the cars themselves have that generation capability built in (hence the preference for hybrids) and they charged themselves primarily off surpluses.

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Joke

Combinations ?

Why not have the top edges of these canopies covered with small wind turbines so, when the weather turns windy it still generates charge. And while we are at it, make the support legs hollow, with small hydro-electric turbines in them, to generate charge when it rains ?

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@Ken Hagan

"High up on the roof of a private dwelling sounds far better."

<THWACK> (Nail on head)

Yer average carport spot is next to a house. Thus, even on sunny days, it spends somewhere around half of its time in the shade. Best case scenario is an east/west orientated house with no adjacent building / trees on the southern side and the carport situated there. Anything else probably isn't worth the effort.

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry

...but I think you mean Gaia strangling.

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Anonymous Coward

Car Parks

Although I haven't been home to the UK recently I do seem to remember lots and lots of big open car parks at all the numerous supermarkets, outlet/homeware stores and offices. Unless of course all of these have recently disappered!

Sticking a few hundred of these in carparks around the country would at make use of some of that wasted space.

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Stop

more paving...

what about multistorey car parks?

Hope this doesn't get used as a reason to pave more of paradise and put up a solar-powered parking lot.

(alright, showing my age there...)

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Happy

@Tamer Shafik

It may be worth more than that if inefficiencies in "petrol -> useful work done" vs "leccy -> useful work done" are taken into account!

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Talking of open spaces

Just think how much more power could be generated into the national grid if this Government made it a requirement of all factory and warehousing units to donate a minimum of 30% of roofspace to solar energy production. Make the purchase cost a deferred payment and you'll have a whole new industry with manufacturing jobs springin up and installation firms roaring round.

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