Volkswagen and Engie, a Paris-based energy company, have collaborated to construct a 20 MW solar canopy above a Volkswagen company parking lot in northern France. This solar canopy is comprised of two equally sized units and spans across 15 hectares.

This 15-hectare solar canopy, costing $22 million US, was completed by Engie Green. Engie Green is a subsidiary of Engie that focuses on renewables. Engie Green raised $3.3 million US for the project from 342 donors through crowdfunding campaigns.

This project is Engie Green’s thirteenth French solar canopy. Engie Green has already built overhead solar panels on 200 hectares of land. Engie Green will oversee day-to-day operations at the Volkswagen solar plant for the next 32 years.

The French government has required that all parking lots with a capacity of at least 80 vehicles must include solar panels. Solar panels must occupy at least 50% of the parking lots’ space. Parking lots with 80 to 400 spaces have five years to comply, while those accommodating more vehicles have three years.

The French government estimates that these solar parking lots could contribute 11 GW to the country’s electricity capacity.  This is equivalent to 10 nuclear power plants.

Parking lots, together with building exteriors and rooftops, offer great potential for smaller solar systems. The benefit lies in their ability to shield cars from rain, snow, and excessive sunlight. This reduces wear and tear and lessens the need for vehicle cooling.

Furthermore, solar parking lots can produce electricity, provide charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, and supply power to nearby structures.

Solar parking lots are spreading to other parts of Europe. Slovenia recently implemented legislation that permits the installation of solar systems on parking lots. The law also permits solar panels to be built on larger buildings’ roofs, in close proximity to energy infrastructure, alongside roads and railways, and on closed landfills and quarries.

Image Source: pv magazine France,