San Antonio's Solution to Healthier and Greener Parks
The Parks and Rec System
Solar Tiles are a new innovative and emerging technology for cities. San Antonio needs to be on the forefront of innovation to improve this city. The parks around San Antonio are the prime opportunity to create positive change. Renovating the city parks with Solar Tiles is coherent with San Antonio’s Park Mission Statement, Green Park initiative, and is a stepping stone to creating a lasting impact.
Solar Roadways makes Solar Tiles and are featured in several articles, including ones written by the Washington Post. The Post explains how beneficial these are to the environment and cities. They bring in Jan Kleissl, an environmental engineering professor at University of California-San Diego and he says asphalt absorbs energy in a harmful way which causes the “urban heat island effect”. Basically, asphalt makes the surrounding air hotter. Kleissl says these Solar Tiles could have a benefit in reducing the carbon footprint caused from the urban heat island effect. Apart from helping the environment, these Solar Tiles are loaded with awesome tech: programmable LED lights, heating elements for melting snow, and pressure sensors.
Why should the San Antonio’s Parks and Recreation Department care? Well the Department is committed to provide exceptional parks, facilities, programs and services to improve the quality of life for all. They even received $87 million from the 2012-2017 Bond Program to update 65 of their 240 city parks. By doing that, they are proactively providing exceptional parks, plus they want to help with the environment. 218 parks have recycling bins and their Green Initiative is driving them to plant hundreds of thousands of new trees. Solar Tiles is perfectly in-line with the Department’s mission and Green Initiative.
Can the Department trust that Solar Tiles are worth it? Several scholars have studied solar technology and just recently a Solar Energy Study from Stanford, published by the American Chemical Society in 2013, says that in between 2012 and 2015 solar energy will make the switch to being a “net electricity provider” and by 2020 “the electrical energy required for its early growth” will be paid back. Essentially that means all of the costs from producing solar panels, even in the past, will be covered by 2020. MIT also had a report titled “The Future of Solar Energy” and it is consistent with Stanford’s report as it says “that while improvements in that technology can be expected over time, today’s solar panels are good enough to get the job of replacing fossil fuels done”. While the technology is already there to help the environment, the MIT report authors say it “will be less about breakthroughs in solar technology and more about breakthroughs in political policies”. This is where San Antonio can be a leader in these policies.
The Netherlands are the current leader in these policies as they just recently installed a solar bike path. This path is 230 ft long and within the past year provided enough power for 3 homes. If San Antonio just replaced all of the 140 park tennis courts with Solar Tile Technology, it could generate at least 15 times more power than this one bike path. That doesn’t even include trails, parking lots, or basketball courts. By doing this, the parks are improved to meet the mission of exceptional parks. By doing this, the Park department can be a leader in energy efficiency and green initiatives. And by doing this, San Antonio can take a step towards implementing an ambitious technology to a lasting and sustainable change.
Jimmy Pelaez Salazar