Each time a new product that utilizes solar energy is revealed, it becomes increasingly clear how difficult it is to predict the form and function of future applications of solar technology. One day you could be pedaling along in a solar-powered bike helmet, and the next you could be online tracking the 24-hour historic flight of a solar-powered airplane.
Now that we’ve got some old clunkers off the road, we can look towards the future of transportation. When we threw in our two cents on the growth of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles last week, we touched on the concept of solar parking lots. Also known as “solar trees,” photovoltaic panels are elevated on stands on the roofs of already-established garages or parking lots. The panels themselves mimic branches of a tree, providing shade for the car while lowering the internal temperature on hot days. An excellent use of previously underutilized space, solar parking lots can power nearby buildings, feed clean and renewable energy back into the grid, and establish the fueling infrastructure needed to popularize electric vehicles.