Moxa's Parking Lot, Roof Go Solar

Everyone knows how hot parking lots get in the summer. All of our sweltering cars and burnt feet on the way to the beach are proof of it. However, as people rush from their cars to air-conditioned buildings, many of them might not think about how the sun also produces a great deal of energy that could be captured and put to use.

One exception is Moxa, which recently installed 1,133 solar panels in a 35,000 ft2 installation over the company's parking lot and roof of its testing lab, training center and warehouse in sunny Brea, Calif. The company bought and renovated the 1980s-era building for its new headquarters, and the solar project was part of the reconstruction.

The banks of 4x2 ft panels from Suntech produce more than 311 kW. Once converted from dc to ac, this solar power is expected to cover all of the electrical needs for Moxa's facility, and save about $6,000 per month. And, besides providing some much-needed shade for cars in the lot, the panels are also powering four car-charging stations for several electric vehicles.

Moxa's Solar Panel Retrofit
Moxa's new solar panel covered parking lot. Brea, California.

The electrical inverter performing the panels' dc-to-ac conversion process is monitored by Moxa's MGate MB3170 Modbus serial-to-Modbus Ethernet data inverter that converts serial data to Ethernet, and displays and aggregates it to help improve performance. Moxa's EDS-405A managed Ethernet switches also acquire data from the car chargers and video cameras that provide surveillance for the panels.

About half of the $1 million bill for the panels was paid by California's Solar Initiative rebate program and by federal tax credits. The project is expected to pay for itself in less than five years. "On cloudy days and at night, we'll still buy some power from the grid. However, overall, these panels will generate revenue for us," said Jim Toepper, Moxa's marketing manager for industrial networking and video solutions. "A lot of people still believe that solar isn't real, but there's no excuse not to use it in California."

In addition to the solar power system, Moxa has implemented other resource conservation efforts, such as low-flow aerators, rain sensors for irrigation, and motion sensors for lighting. The company is also considering retrofitting parking lights to LEDs, and other conservation solutions.

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