Growing a Solar Forest in a South Carolina Parking Lot

"Solar trees" can turn parking lots into renewable electricity machines.

Parking lots don't have much going for them: they hold cars, sure, but as vast swathes of concrete, they're also part of the urban heat island effect and don't add much to the aesthetics of a neighborhood. In the United States, there are around 160 billion square feet of parking lots. Here's one designer's vision of a better way to use that space—converting it into "solar forests."

California-based Envision Solar created a "solar tree" that can be placed in a parking lot to shade cars and capture sunlight for electricity. Unlike solar panels mounted on roofs, the solar tree can actually turn, depending on the time of day and the season, to absorb the maximum amount of sunshine (and therefore also generate the maximum of power). The trunks of the solar trees can also act as charging stations for electric cars.

Later this year, Envision plans to begin building 2,300 solar trees for a parking lot in South Carolina—enough to generate 35 megawatts of electricity.

This month, challenge a neighbor to GOOD's energy smackdown. Find a neighbor with a household of roughly the same square footage and see who can trim their power bill the most. Throughout February, we'll share ideas and resources for shrinking your household carbon footprint, so join the conversation at


Image courtesy of Envision Solar