Envisioning the solar parking garage

Envision Solar seeks to put solar panels on the roofs of parking structures, but financing could prove to be tricky.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read

La Jolla, Calif.'s Envision Solar wants to convert the wasted space that covers parking garages into a utility.

The company, which has raised $600,000 and is seeking $1.3 million more, plans to put solar panels on the roofs of parking structures. The electricity produced could then be used to power an adjacent building, be fed into the grid or used to charge electric cars in the parking lot.

Tesla Motors Chairman Elon Musk has talked about cutting deals with parking garages to install solar panels. And the last time we were at Tesla's headquarters, we ran into Martin Roscheisen, CEO of Nanosolar, and some other Nanosolar execs in the lobby. Go figure.

Envision got started after CEO Robert Noble, who was running an architectural firm, got contacted by Japan's Kyocera about building a solar panel garage. Kyocera is one of the world's largest panel makers.

"Solar has to go on parking lots and parking structures," Noble told VentureWire. "The parking lots and parking structures are where all the space is."

The difficulty will come in financing. Although prices are declining, solar panels aren't cheap and many parking lots aren't currently covered by a roof, which would have to be built to accommodate panels. Envision will have to convince building owners about the economics of solar, particularly in the U.S. It will be an easier sell in Spain and Germany, where solar demand rages.

As a side note, check out Envision's Web site. It plays all new age music while a woman's voice welcomes you to the future of energy. There's a definite Minority Report feel to it: it's optimistic and ominous at the same time.