June 20, 2023

Make the Most of Your Parking Lot with Renewable Energy


9 Min. Read

Owners of companies and facilities managers are eager to maximize the potential of their buildings, however, they may be overlooking a valuable resource: the parking lot. The parking lot, which may initially be unappealing and costly, has the potential to become a valuable asset for the company. How can this transformation occur?

By incorporating electric vehicle (EV) chargers and solar panels into the parking lot infrastructure, you can unlock the otherwise untapped potential of your parking lots.

In this article, we’ll take a further evaluation and examination of electrifying your parking structures.

Why Should You Electrify Your Parking Lot?

Solar panels and EV charging stations add employee benefits, community support, property marketability, customer convenience, and financial returns. Integrating a solar array into your parking infrastructure will enhance your visitor and employee experiences while also reducing the overall cost of operating the EV charging stations and even other aspects of your business.

Parking lots generally have electricity, mainly used to power the lighting fixtures, but the existing electrification makes parking lots ideal for EV charging stations and solar panels.

The first concern when implementing these two technologies is the initial cost. While solar power arrays can be expensive, and installing EV charging stations may require additional infrastructure, you must recognize that the benefits will outweigh these costs.

The Advantages of EV Parking Lot Installations

How can a company benefit from installing EV charging stations and solar panels in the parking area? Look at EV charging stations, solar panels, and their combination.

EV Charging Stations in Parking Lots

EV ownership rates have skyrocketed recently, but a lack of public or even employee EV charging stations is one of the few downsides to EV ownership. Although many metro areas are adding EV charging station availability, suburban and rural areas are still underserved, and as the adoption rate of EVs continues to rise, the demand for accessible charging will only continue to rise.

The overall lack of charging stations presents a prime opportunity to install EV charging stations in your parking lot. An additional incentive for property owners is that while EV charging networks must negotiate for each new property, owners can contract EV charging station installation in the existing parking area, making it even easier to own and manage chargers in your parking spaces.

Benefits of Adding Employee EV Charging Stations to Your Parking Lot

EV charging stations improve employee relationships. In fact, EV charging stations are becoming a necessary perk for potential employees looking for their next employer. Employers offering employee EV charging also have reported better employee retention.

EV owners frequently build travel routes around charging locations, creating potent advertising possibilities for your company or property and attracting business from travelers as well as locals. Customers who are EV owners may visit your EV charging station and, by extension, your business. Meanwhile, nearby EV owners who are not customers may look more favorably at your company because of the EV charging station and environmental implications.

EV charging stations can also create a new income stream for your business. Currently, national networks build most public EV charging stations, but EV owners must have a subscription to use any given network. You can set up something similar by installing an EV charging station in your lot and creating a subscription plan to generate recurring business.

Additionally, you can offer charging options without having to buy into a subscription plan. Keep in mind that different times will have varying demands, and pricing can adapt accordingly. Utilities may charge a time-of-use rate based on this, impacting the rates you will also need to charge.

There is considerable income potential if your area lacks charging options for EV owners. While many companies offer EV charging for free to their employees, you could set a reduced access rate and do the same thing with customers.

How Do Solar Panels Fit In?

Like EV charging stations, solar panels, called solar arrays, are connected to the power grid and even potentially a microgrid. Parking lots offer large, wide-open areas with good solar exposure, and solar arrays could provide energy to power your EV chargers, building, and even your community, plus they will provide an added visitor convenience through covered parking.

You should note that solar arrays require construction costs, permits, and ongoing maintenance. Through careful planning and efficient use of the energy generated, well-placed solar arrays could easily pay for themselves. A quality solar array can offset a location’s electricity bill, improving a building’s resiliency during power outages, and you can even sell any unused energy to the grid utility at a premium when your business isn’t using that power and grid demand is at its highest.

Combining EV charging with these arrays becomes another potential income stream for your business by creating a synergistic effect beyond the two individual technologies. Together, they can reduce the costs and power requirements of EV charging station ownership.

How to Manage Your Transition to Electrified Parking Lots

Review the necessary equipment and software before you begin any installation work and contact professionals who can advise you on the most cost-effective options and explore alternate solutions that will best meet your needs.

Certified electrification professionals familiar with the latest industry developments and products can help you select the necessary equipment and ensure all components are capable of integrating into a combined solution. Certified installers should also be familiar with your local installation requirements and code compliance, as these technologies have different requirements than standard electrical work.

Measuring EV Charging Interest and Site Suitability

Look at your community’s EV charging station availability. If public charging stations are nearby, they may claim potential traffic. Consider your parking lot access and visibility. Can nearby drivers get in and out quickly? Is your business easily viewable from passing traffic, and will they also have access to other businesses with EV chargers in the area?

Consider seasonal changes and possible sunlight blockers. You might have a wonderfully sunny parking lot in summer but not winter, and solar arrays will not produce energy if tall buildings or trees block the sun.

If you have questions about your site, consult an EV or solar installer. They can measure your solar exposure and help you decide how to proceed best.

Creating a Microgrid With Your Parking Electrification

The combination of EV chargers and solar arrays is known as a microgrid and is becoming more common as electrification prices decrease. Schools, police stations, and hospital emergency services set up microgrids to maintain a constant power supply, but you can create one for your business as well.

They could partner with you in the future to build a clean energy community using solar arrays and EV charging stations.

Supply and Demand for EV Charging and Solar Arrays

Determining the need for EV charging stations is more than noting that charging stations are nearby — the number of EV owners you employ, and those in your area affect the market.

Survey your employees. You may need chargers if you employ a moderate to high rate of EV owners.

Also, compare the number of EV owners in your area to the number of EV charging stations. It’s good news if you find more EV owners than charging stations. Owners may need access to an EV charging station, and they may stop at yours if it’s available, accessible, and visible.

Finally, observe the amount of sunlight your parking lot receives and monitor your local electricity costs, which can vary widely from one location to another.

It’s also essential to consider your immediate community. If you are in a small town that frequently loses power during storms, solar arrays, and EV power stations could become critical power sources during outages.

Cost and Financing EV Charging Stations

Building an EV charging station and solar array can be a major undertaking. Let’s demystify the process with details and options.

EV Charging Installation

Here are sample cost estimates from the Department of Energy (DOE):

  • Level 2 single port EVSE unit purchase price ranges from $400 to $6,500, while installation can vary from $1,600 to $12,700;
  • DC fast chargers retail for $10,000 to $40,000, while installation costs $4,000 and $51,000.

The DOE is updating its report with new data, but currently, it covers the elements required for installing EV charging stations in non-residential settings, including charging station costs, features, and ways to reduce installation costs.

Besides the actual charger cost, installation costs also include site prep fees and new or improved electrical service to the site. The site location can also significantly affect your construction costs.

You can decrease installation costs by minimizing the distance between the new charging station and the electrical power. The DOE report estimated that each linear foot of trenching distance would cost $100. So each 50’ of trenching distance will tack another $5,000 onto the project.

Your site prep will include materials, trenching a channel for the electric cable, and required signage. Your installation project will also carry various related costs, such as materials, labor, permits, and taxes.

Solar Array Installation

The solar array will add upfront costs but save you money over time. Typical costs vary widely, but one common guideline is that each EV charging station needs roughly 8-16 panels per charging station. Additionally, the solar array has components beyond the EV charging station.

Those components are often less expensive than the infrastructure required for the additional grid-tied electrical service. In fact, an EV charging station and solar array combination averages approximately $15,000 once labor, materials, and permits are totaled. An EV charging station stall without a solar array will cost around $20,000.

EV Charging and Solar Array Installation Incentives

The best news is that a variety of incentives exist to offset these costs:

Keep in mind your existing infrastructure, charging needs, permitting fees, and other requirements will ultimately affect your individual EV project costs.

The Qmerit Solution

When reviewing your budget for 2023, consider investing in EV charging stations and solar arrays for your parking lot. Adding EV charging will save money, improve employee satisfaction, and attract more customers. With the proper research and preparation, you can make the transition to EV charging smooth and successful.

With the largest network of certified electrification installers in North America and over 269,000 electric vehicle charging stations installed, and more than 53,000 solar system integrations to date, there is a reason Qmerit is trusted by automakers, EV charging companies, businesses, utilities, and homeowners.

Take the stress out of vetting charging station installers to start growing your infrastructure and partner with a company that has a proven track record of success and the highest industry satisfaction rating. Our mission is to make electrification accessible and affordable, and we can help you manage the EV transition by discussing ways to offset costs through utility incentives and financing.

Contact Qmerit today to learn more.

Author: Tom Bowen

Tom Bowen

President, Qmerit Solutions and Commercial Electrification