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Solar Trees for Google’s Parking Lot  January 09, 2007

Another innovative move from the internet-based company Google—this time in the landscaping of their parking lot. This spring, Google’s plans to renovate the parking lot of their headquarters, located in Mountain View, California with groves of solar trees will be completed. Google hired Energy Innovations to design and build the project, which has already completed six solar projects for “green” businesses.

The solar trees, or pole-mounted solar panels, will line the parking lot as normal trees do. The trees will provide both shade from the sun and some protection from the rain with their “overhanging parking shades.” In addition, the trees will provide 5.3 megawatts of energy – enough to power about 330 homes. (Google also plans to mount more solar panels on the rooftops to provide another ten megawatts). Experts agree that solar trees are cheaper and easier to maintain than traditional rooftop panels, where both the installation and repair is often hard to get to.

Significantly, the trees will provide a new aesthetic to the parking lot landscaping. “[These] installations are a visible demonstration of the company’s commitment to the environment,” says Bob Noble, an architect at San Diego-based Envision Solar, which has also designed solar groves for companies such as Kyocera. “You can talk about your energy savings, your recycling and green practices, but the sight of solar panels in the parking lot is an emblem of that commitment.”

Envision is planning to enter the residential market in 2007 by scaling down the solar trees into solar carports that consumers will be able to erect as do-it-yourself projects at home.

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