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Sun shades cool parking lots, pump out solar energy

Add up all the asphalt parking lots surrounding the nation’s malls, offices and commuter hubs, and there’s more than enough blacktop to pave over Connecticut. Envision Solar International hopes to tranform those barren expanses into green-energy oases by erecting forests of “solar trees”. About 12 feet tall, each “tree” is capped with a 1,000 sq-ft canopy covered in solar cells.

Already installed or being built in a handful of California parking areas, Envision’s high-tech sun shades not only make the lots cooler and more comfortable, they generate clean power during daylight hours when it’s most needed. When “planted” in the parking lot of a typical regional shopping mall, a grove of the square-shaped shades can generate up to half a megawatt, enough to power about 500 homes. And since the property owner purchases the power the trees generate over their lifetime, Envision can finance and install them with no additional charge to the owner. In time, the San Diego-based company hopes its solar structures will help fuel tomorrow’s electric cars.

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