Portable Solar Parking Canopies

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In recent years consumer sentiment has increasingly been leaning towards more environmentally responsible and sustainable products. As a response to this growing trend all the major car manufacturing companies have been working to develop their own electric cars, with a number of models already on the road and additional ones being added quarterly. By the end of 2013, every major car manufacturer is expected to have their own electric vehicle in production.

Contestant organization: 
Venture partners: 

GreenSaver has developed a business partnership with Sanyo Canada and the Canadian Green Design Corporation to design, build, test and commercialize the portable solar parking canopy concept. Each member of the partnership will contribute skills and resources in-line with their core competencies.  GreenSaver will be responsible for the overall management and the implementation of the program.

Describe your venture: 


In recent years consumer sentiment has increasingly been leaning towards more environmentally responsible and sustainable products. As a response to this growing trend all the major car manufacturing companies have been working to develop their own electric cars, with a number of models already on the road and additional ones being added quarterly. By the end of 2013, every major car manufacturer is expected to have their own electric vehicle in production.

While the electric vehicles are a more environmentally responsible choice, they are not without their own logistical challenges.  Most importantly the electric vehicles face issues of short range travel and remote charging capabilities. As the number of electric vehicles on the road increases, the need for remote charging options will grow exponentially. In an attempt to address these issues and expand adoption rates of the electric vehicles, municipalities and organizations have looked to identify potential solutions to these challenges. These solutions include home charging, public charging at commercial and retail buildings and various pay options.  Some or all of these options are cumbersome to implement and often present a turn-off to potential owners or operators of electric vehicles.  Even though paying a modest amount for an EV charge may sound acceptable and simple, putting a payment infrastructure and tracking system in place is neither.  One, not widely implemented, option has been to turn to building solar canopies on parking infrastructure.


In the past few years, GreenSaver has been actively involved in solar design and installation and has partnered on a number of residential, community and commercial projects.  It has been an active participant in both MicroFIT and FIT program in Ontario and has augmented this with its extensive work and overall reputation for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. 

While the solar canopies in use today have met the basic need of providing clean, renewable power for the electric vehicles, they tend to be major investments that are time-consuming to construct, bulky and permanent in nature. GreenSaver has identified an opportunity to develop a light-weight, easily assembled and disassembled framing structure that may be modified as the needs of the parking infrastructure change over time (structures may be scaled as small, medium or large). This product would not only allow greater adaptation of the electric vehicle by overcoming one of the greatest barriers to ownership, but would do so in an environmentally responsible manner by providing a sustainable, emission reducing solution.

With its unique proposition of being light-weight and easily mountable, GreenSaver’s product would be aimed at a wide range of parking facilities, as its anticipated lower cost and mobility would make it attractive to a large market of parking infrastructure operators. The framing structure would be manufactured of aluminum or plastic and would assemble in a clip-in fashion, allowing the owner to customize the size and assemble the product with minimal investment of time and resources. With a lower initial investment and the ability to relocate the framing structure, this simple yet leading edge technology would allow for much higher adoption rates of solar canopies. Providing more remote charging options to the EV owner is in turn going to expand the entire EV market by extending the EV's driving range.


The owners of parking infrastructure and car rental/share operators (our customers) will have two options in terms of how they will utilize the energy that they generate.

OPTION 1 – Grid-tied system - With this option the customer is able to sell all generated electricity back into the energy grid. In Ontario this is facilitated under the Feed-In-Tariff program and the current contract provides a guaranteed rate for a 20 year period. Under this program the customer would be generating clean and renewable energy (reducing the city’s reliance on coal burning generation facilities), while covering the cost of installing the solar canopy.

OPTION 2 – Off-grid battery system – The second option offers the customer the choice to directly use and store all electricity generated by the solar PV system. When the production of energy exceeds the consumption the excess may be stored in battery systems. This allows the customer to store the excess energy for use during peak-hour periods, likely eliminating the use of more expensive and “dirty” energy. This model is likely to be used in areas where a grid-tied system is not an option, but still offers the owner significant energy savings, especially as the costs of energy continue to increase and the prices of solar PV equipment decline.

Most importantly this solution provides a number of clear benefits to parking infrastructure operators and end users:

  • Providing solar charging at a reduced cost in an easy to assemble/disassemble package, with an option to lease the equipment
  • Eliminating the need for a separate payment and measurement infrastructure by integrating the cost of charging into the cost of parking or car sharing/rental
  • Providing an environmentally friendly option for their customers and differentiating their offering from the competition
  • Creating shading in open-air parking lots
  • Creating additional revenue by selling excess electricity back to the grid (where applicable)
  • A built in back-up electricity system, especially useful in inner city cores which could face periodic power outages (such as Toronto)
  • Providing a remote charging solution for drivers with short range EVs
Emissions reduction potential: 

The forecasted environmental benefits of GreenSaver’s innovation will depend on the installed capacity of each project and the number of cars that are being charged at each location. The positive environmental impact is doubled as the electric vehicle is being powered by a clean and renewable source, and the CO2 offsets are expected to be significant. The use of solar panels to produce clean energy greatly reduces Toronto's reliance on traditional coal burning generation facilities.

As an example of the environmental emission reduction potential of this project, every kilowatt of installed capacity is expected to produce 1,298kWh of electricity annually, which in turn is equivalent to not consuming 112L of gasoline in the same period of time or reducing CO2 emissions by .3 tonnes.

For an average parking lot of 70 cars, the average CO2 reduction would be 22 tonnes annualy or an 8,400L reduction potential of gasoline not used. If 100 such lots in the city of Toronto convert to solar power the emission reduction would be 11,000 tonnes of CO2 or 4,200,000L of gas not used.

In addition to the clean power that is produced by the solar parking canopies, the project allows for greater numbers of traditional gas-guzzling and emission producing cars to be removed from our city's roads by making the EV a viable alternative through remote charging. This equates to approximately 2-3 tonnes of CO2 being removed from our city annually for each gas car that is traded in for an electric vehicle. This product would ensure that one type of emission is not being replaced by another. The portable solar parking canopies work to produce clean energy, ensuring that the electric vehicle's carbon footprint is further reduced. 

The team: 

Boris Mladjen - Director of Energy Technologies at GreenSaver is leading the development of this project.

Boris is responsible for implementation and business development of renewable technologies. Boris has over 16 years of experience in the energy sector in Canada and Europe. Prior to joining GreenSaver, Boris was managing the technology development department at one of the largest energy utility companies in Canada and served on the board of directors for several energy organizations. Boris holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Masha Marinkovic - Program Manager, Energy Technologies is responsible for the solar PV program at GreenSaver. 

Seeking collaborators: 
Potential collaborators should contact : 
Operators of parking infrastructure and car rental/share operators interested in participating in a pilot project should contact Masha Marinkovic at 416-203-3106 X 230 or masha.marinkovic@greensaver.org
How will you ensure your project is self supporting within five years?: 

The EV market is currently in its infancy stage and the ability to extend the range of the electric vehicle will help to expand the entire industry. With increasing numbers of electric vehicles forecasted on our roads, the need for remote charging will become a pressing issue for municipalities looking to support greening initiatives and reduce the dependence on already stretched energy generating resources.

As the first electric vehicles enter garages across the city in the coming months, operators of parking infrastructure will begin to encounter requests to provide charging options to their customers. GreenSaver's unique portable system will offer the most versatile and affordable solution in the market.

The continued operation of the business will depend solely on the revenue generated by the sales of its product. The demand for the portable solar parking canopies is expected to rise in line with EV sales. Once critical mass has been achieved in the EV market and our product has demonstrated its worth, sales are expected to climb steadily. Initially the sales effort would focus on operators of large parking infrastructure and car-share/rental operators. Following that, the focus would move to all organizations with large outside parking infrastructure.

Once proven locally, the business can be expanded internationally as EVs enter markets around the world and more municipalities look for means of reducing emissions and moving to renewable sources of power. 

How did you hear about ClimateSpark?: 
Through TAF


JLanger's picture

De-centralized energy, produced where needed, is where we need to be. The costs are coming down, and Ontario's FIT makes it work commercially.  Is this venture completely dependent on FIT as is?  What's the sensitivity? 

The canopy design seems to focus on EVs, but the narrative is more about the broader grid or off-grid electricity.  How linked is this venture to EVs, or is that an added aspect? 

GreenSaver's picture

Thank you for your comments regarding the FIT program. A great aspect of this venture is that it can work both as a grid tied system or an off-grid self-sustaining model. Ontario's FIT program supports commercialization, however, the opportunity to use an off-grid system in the absence of such a program still allows the operator to use the stored energy to off-set peak hour power costs.

GreenSaver sees EV charging as a key driver of this venture. There has been a significant amount of concern as to how EV charging will impact the electrical grid as the market expands and the numbers of such vehicles multiply. GreenSaver has identified a solution that would not only lessen the impact on the grid but would also provide a clean source of energy. Additionally, this is a market in its infancy stage and we see a lot of opportunity to grow this venture.

Deepak Ramachandran's picture

Please read below

How could this proposal be improved?: 

I’m excited to see so many entrepreneurial proposals on ClimateSpark.  I especially like the model of social ventures that can sustain themselves by creating their own revenue and be less dependent on grants or gifts.  

In my own experience starting and building several companies, I’ve often employed “bootstrapping” techniques so I’m not dependent on external capital (VCs, etc.).  One technique I’ve used successfully is to recruit one or more “lead customers” who pay me up-front for a service (e.g., consulting or something they need right away), which gives me the capital to build my product or capability for them.  The big advantages:  cash up-front (or early); a real customer to help make sure my design is something they’ll want to buy; and a great partner to test ideas with as I’m getting off the ground. 

What’s your bootstrapping strategy?  Have you tried to develop “lead customers” for your product or service?  Have you talked to potential customers ? What are you doing to get cashflow from them  early, so your idea can gain traction?

oilnomore's picture

I assume you have solar panel on the canopy. It is a great idea. Why convenient! But, will it generates enough power to recharge EVs parked under the canopy? You may have to go dual systems; on the grid and off the grid at the same time. Off the grid power may be the supplementary. Think of the when EVs fill all the spots.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

You need to find right place to start. How about supermarket parking lots like Loblaws, Wal Marts, Yorkdale Shopping Mall, and many others. Sooner or later these corporations will be proud they have installed your system, encouraging EV shoppers.

interested's picture

Each proposal in ClimateSpark is bringing a valuable community based idea forward to help with energy conservation and the reduction of carbon emissions

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Centennial College, School of Communications Media & Design, Corporate Communications and Public Relations Class of 2012 will be working on a set of mock press releases, in anticipation of this proposal being one of the 20 to be selected on October 31 to continue to ClimateSpark Ignite Phase 2.

If you would like to be interviewed as part of the mock press release development process, please send a note to Professor Barry Waite, bwaite@centennialcollege.ca by Friday October 21, 2011.

If you choose not to be interviewed, the mock press release will be developed based on Information currently posted in the description of your idea, as well as information gleaned from the various comment interactions.

GreenSaver's picture

Thank you foar all the questions that have been posted.

To answer the bootstrapping question. GreenSaver has partnered with two other industry experts as a means of minimizing the initial capital investment that is required to get this venture off the ground.  Once the project is ready for commercialization the proceeds from sales will help further development and improvement of the product.

To answer the question regarding capacity. In the event that the system is grid connected the generated electricity will likely be fed back into the power grid and not used directly to charge the EVs. In this case the generation capacity is no longer an issue. Seasonality is also a concern with a solar system in that the summer months provide more daylight hours while the generation in the winter is greatly impacted by the shorter day and other factors. However, storing the generated energy would ensure adequate charging capacity for a designated number of EVs.


JJTaylor's picture

This sounds like a very promising technology as the EVs start showing up on our streets. How far off the production of the canopies?

How difficult will it be for the solar panels to achieve maximum sun exposure in crowded down-town cores?

jroddy's picture

Nice to see the creativity but this is too far ahead in the future for it to make an impact now

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Keep on plugin

marn's picture

Interesting proposal and I can see five to ten years down the road having this concept all over. Initial start up costs sound expensive but then costs would be mostly maintenance and could be highly profitable.  I could see homeowners wanting this at home.

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