You know those ugly solar panel structures you park your car under? They're kind of a big deal.
Solar carports have been popping up in school parking lots across the state and the Bay Area is leading the way.
They work just like solar panels on rooftops, converting sunlight into electricity. And in addition to providing some shade, they managed to crank out about 20 megawatts of electricity in 2010, the New York Times reports.
The Milpitas Unified School District is one of about 75 elementary, high school and community college campuses in California with solar carports.
The district relies on them for 75 percent of its electricity needs in an entire school year.
Over a 20-year period, Milpitas could save millions of dollars thanks to the carports, a fact that has drawn a lot of interest.
“I’ve gotten calls from Hawaii, from Canada, from all over California,” said John Cimino, director of maintenance, operations and transportation for the district.
Schools are paying for the systems through partnerships with banks and intermediaries like Chevron, which in turn sell the electricity back to the schools, picking up some tax incentives on the way.
Google actually started the solar carport trend back in 2007. The Mountain View-based company put solar panels in its parking lot before it was cool, then the schools caught on.
As word spreads, carports may soon be as common as playgrounds. But California isn't stopping with a few solar parking lots.