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The environmental impact of St. Pete pier solar parking canopy

By: Francisco Navarro

The era of using fossil fuels as a major resource is over, and the planet is begging us to commit to renewable energy. The journey ahead will be one of extreme difficulties, but if we make the effort and start switching to easily accessible clean energy solutions, we can start making a difference.

Solar energy is one of many vital solutions for reverting climate change. Especially in Florida, where solar heat is abundant, it’s an indispensable addition to our community. The St. Petersburg Pier project, expected to open this upcoming summer, has set in motion the installation of a solar panel canopy for the Pier’s parking lot.

St. Petersburg leased the agreement with Duke Energy Florida, a leading company who provides renewable energy solutions across the U.S. The solar panel car canopy is estimated to cost $2 million. However, Duke will pay for the system in full and is solely responsible for its construction and maintenance through its duration.

Although a million-dollar parking lot may be expensive, it’s an investment that is crucially needed. This new feature not only provides shaded parking from the hot Florida weather, but its sole purpose is to create a positive impact on the broader central Florida environment. The Pier’s solar panel parking lot will maximize energy production and provide clean energy throughout the 3,065-foot-long pier.  

The Pier’s solar canopy produces 650kW (Kilowatts) of solar energy and has a 30-year life expectancy. That much production and storage of solar energy is enough to power 60 homes per year.  

According to the Pier’s website, “the project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 400 metric tons per year – that’s like taking over 100 cars off the road each year or freeing up over 400 acres of forest to absorb other harmful emissions.”

Greenhouse gas emissions derived from human activity is the biggest contributing factor affecting global climate change. The continuous emissions are destroying our atmosphere, and consequently, forcing a change in the Earth’s energy balance.

That’s why solar parking canopies such as this one are essential to the community; even if it regulates gas emissions on a smaller scale compared to what is needed worldwide, it’s still a reduction and contribution to our local environment.

In addition, the solar panels will significantly reduce St. Pete’s electric bill and protect its inhabitants from rising energy costs.

According to Energysage.com, the average household owner pays a monthly electricity bill of $1,200, adding up to more than $25,000 in 20 years. If that’s just the average for one house, imagine the monthly electricity bill for a whole Pier. Thankfully, solar energy equipment usually has a cost recovery period of five years.

Now, if the $2 million will be recovered in five years, imagine the total annual savings of the pier’s 30-year lifetime.

Solar canopies are an efficient use of unused space. The project decided to use the parking space that was already part of the initial plan and install a feature that progresses the city’s energy future.

“The city appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with Duke Energy in providing renewable energy within the city limits,” said Sharon Wright, City Sustainability and Resiliency Director. “This process has taught us a lot, and we look forward to building on the wins with our energy provider to lead the region in its transition to 100 percent Clean Energy.”

We need more initiatives like this one. One of the main goals for reversing the effects of climate change is implementing Solar Farms throughout the country instead of using fossil fuels as our main source of energy. If project by project we are able to do the same as the St. Pete Pier, the financial and environmental benefits of its outcomes will be greater than ever.

Francisco Navarro can be reached at francisco.navarro@spartans.ut.edu

 

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