Envision Solar has partnered with 360 Commercial Partners, a commercial real estate firm, to bring its Solar Trees to 360 Commercial properties. The Solar Trees are elevated PV arrays that provide shading for parking lots or other purposes while powering buildings and electric vehicle chargers.
Through the partnership Envision will install Solar Trees at 360 Commercial’s locations to help boost the locations’ value.
The real estate company mainly has high-end office buildings in Orange County, Calif., according to Envision CEO Desmond Wheatley.
“The real focus here is how you can add value to commercial real estate beyond just adding renewable energy,” he said. “We’re improving the ugliest part of any piece of real estate, the parking lot.”
That improvement should help the properties gain renters quicker than properties without Solar Trees, according to Wheatley. When companies are looking for office space in an office park, 360 Commercial will use the Solar Trees to help distinguish them from the competition.
“Then you’ve increased the value,” he said. The units also reduce net operating costs for the office buildings.
Envision offers a number of Solar Trees. Last year it started offering the units with trackers, so they can produce more power throughout the day. They’re also usually pre-wired for EV chargers.
“We may not put electric vehicle chargers on all of the trees. We typically integrate six chargers per tree because they cover six to eight spaces,” Wheatley said. “In some instances, we run all the conduit and infrastructure into the columns and leave it with a plat that says future EV charger.”
That way it’s a very minor retrofit as opposed to putting in an entire EV charger.
Last year the company built hundreds of its fixed trees and introduced new trees.
“We built about 30 last year and plan on building lots more,” he said. “We anticipate this will be a far, far better year.”
The Solar Trees look a lot like many of the concentrated PV (CPV) arrays that are now starting to reach the market. Envision has considered making CPV Solar Trees.
“Our product is a compromise between engineering and beauty. It has to be architecturally accretive,” Wheatley said.
So for the time being the company is likely to stick with traditional PV.