Exeter City Council have installed solar car ports on the top deck of multi-storey car parks that they own. The photo above  is taken from one of those carparks. This is a bold move, the first project of it’s kind in the UK and not quite as simple as it sounds.

One of the more subtle benefits comes from a behaviour change from drivers using these car-parks. In the past, visitors  have been reluctant to go to the top deck of the multi story (or alternative open car-parks) because of added inconvenience of walking those extra paces paces and exposure to the prevailing weather conditions.

The solar panels will provide some shelter from the elements, and  EV users will be encouraged to plug in on the top deck (or open car-parks) for cheap town centre charging. This is a smart move that will encourage improved utilisation of these assets.

The business case becomes  more compelling when strategies and policies (for parking, renewable power generation, power storage, EV and V2G) are joined up. Exeter City Council appear to be taking  an ‘agile’ approach:  These projects have put them on course towards sustainability, joining-up the dots between solar power and EV charging and already delivering an early ‘minimum viable’ service.  From this, they are in a great position to test and learn with sustainable energy, at the same time as harvesting solar power that can offset subsidised EV parking.

The business case becomes even more compelling when strategies and policies (for parking, renewable power generation, power storage, EV and V2G) are joined up. Exeter City Council appear to be  do just this and are now in a great position to test and learn with sustainable energy, at the same time as harvesting solar power that can offset subsidised EV parking.

There are electrical and mechanical engineering challenges plus commercial challenges that (collectively) may turn some authorities away from any such sustainable projects. This kind of project requires access to a particular combination technical and business expertise that is in demand around the country. These projects will require significant funding.

There is some irony in that Councils are obliged to reduce costs and risk, while on the other hand being expected to deliver into their Climate Change Strategy which itself requires major investment and innovation.  Last time I checked, investment resulted in increased costs and innovation was inextricably linked to increased risk.

There are centrally available / government grants available, but not enough to go round for everyone. It seems (at the moment) largely down to Councils to come up with the proposals and solutions.

Establishing community and business partnerships is a definite option to explore and try out new sustainable ventures. The forging of these relationships can be a catalyst to collaborate with expertise and funding options that might not otherwise be accessible to any of the parties if they were still working independently.

I live in Surrey and our County Council have published extensive high-quality material about our 2020 Climate Change Strategy available for download on this link.  I found an excellent Executive Summary, updated in April 2021, which sets out a challenging timetable of milestones.

However, at the time of writing this post, I found evidence of a clear disconnect between the 2020 Climate Change Strategy and pre-existing strategies that are also available via the County Council’s website.

Given the our understanding of Climate Change,  local authorities and county councils around the country must take a hard look at their strategic roadmap and reshape them around sustainable principles. Going forward, policies and plans for pubic investment in transport and infrastructure must now bridge the gaps for renewable energy, including:

  • Power-storage (including V2G, Bus to Grid, etc)
  • Community sustainable power generation (including solar, wind, hydro)

Here is the dream:  Community and local business based cooperatives working in partnership with the Council through a roadmap of collaborative sustainable ventures.

We combine wind, solar, and water power generation, feeding into community based ‘energy storage farms’ that can draw power from the grid when the price is low, and feed power out to the community when demand (and price) is at it’s highest.

We have EV chargers everywhere and our community has embraced multi-modal sustainable travel (e-bikes, trams, rail, EV, cycling and walking).  Our roadmap takes towards autonomous vehicles and ‘mobility as a service’ and we reshape our ‘vehicle infrastructure’ to become an integral part of our energy supply: Essentially, EV’s become mobile battery units providing V2G / Bus2Grid capability.

In the mean-time, hats-off to Exeter City Council for putting their money where their rhetoric is. They are actively delivering a set of projects that puts them on a trajectory towards their carbon reduction targets,  a sustainable future, and beyond.

Footnote: Bus-2-Grid model,  Conscious that TfL is pressing ahead with one of the worlds largest V2G  projects. New Zealand is an economy that has been taking this stuff seriously for several years. In 2020, around 80.8 percent of the

Links to related posts:    

To be included –

  • An excellent paper from the Dept of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Auckland University of Technology that discusses (in detail) the Plug-In Electric Bus Depot Charging solution in Aukland (download link to be attached)
  • The time to act is now – related post