In the torture that is parking in New York City, some sunny panels of pleasure are set to arrive

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If you live in Manhattan you’ll know that parking is a perennial problem, with drivers sometimes circling blocks for a half or so to find a spot. It’s a process of “agonies and ecstasies” The New Yorker has noted several times and about which one of its writers, Calvin Trillin, famously wrote a novel. And sometimes twice a week, motorists sit in their cars for an hour and a half in order to move them when street sweepers go by. It’s a big frustration and one that adds pollution to the city air.

So, it’s good to know that some of the metropolis’s 8,500 acres of parking lots — mostly outside Manhattan — are now going to be open to having solar canopies over them, something that, if fully realized, could power 130,000 homes. That’s because the city’s government has relaxed its zoning laws to allow large solar arrays to be constructed over parking areas. In an initiative called the “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality,” the New York City Council approved a zoning code update that will make it easier to deploy clean energy and EV chargers, along with other sustainable initiatives.

Said Mayor Eric Adams: “By modernizing our city’s zoning code, we have taken a bold step forward in fighting climate change while delivering cleaner air, lower energy costs, smarter waste management, and better access to EV technologies to New Yorkers across the city.”

And it’s not only parking lots. The new rules remove zoning obstacles that limit how much rooftop space can be covered by solar panels. It will also make it easier to install long-duration energy storage to go with solar, as well as allow microgrids — particularly in low-income communities — that are currently banned in residential areas. The initiative also more than doubles commercially zoned land where EV charging stations can be sited. These changes mean EV charging is now possible in an additional 400 million square feet of space throughout the city. 

Another win: Not only do the panels over parking lots generate power but they also protect the cars underneath them from sun and precipitation.

Bring them on.

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