Seven Solar Fallacies in IdahoApril 4, 2017
How Net Metering WorksMay 11, 2017
Solar Shades/Carports (almost Free)
Solar panels are being used to find newer and better ways to not only generate electricity, but also to utilize existing constructions and situations that might otherwise be overlooked. One such construction is known by many as the carport
Think about it. Every day, millions and millions of drivers leave and eventually return to the shade and shelter offered by the humble carport. But what about the solar possibility? Car ports offer, in much the same way as residential roofs, an optimal surface upon which solar energy might be harvested. Solar carports
serve as canopies built to cover parking areas. They are similar to traditional ground-mount solar systems, with several differences. First, carports are large enough to allow vehicles to park underneath, and as such enable the owner to place solar panels higher up than ground-mount installations, which gets them closer to the source of the energy. Second, and perhaps most importantly for suburban solar enthusiasts or those working under tight space restraints, is the fact that carports don’t require any additional land. As such, they offer a more efficient use of space than ground installations.
Other, less apparent, benefits to solar carports
line up more with the benefits of traditional carports, including: A potential lowering in snow removal costs, depending on design and orientation of the covering, a safer parking area that is exposed to less weather and a perfect opportunity to catch water for landscaping. In addition, in summer months, a cooler parking spot will lead to lower gas expenses for air conditioning.
Currently in the U.S., solar carports are significantly more popular in the commercial sector than in residential markets. And it’s easy to see why. Think of a Wal-Mart Superstore, Super Target, or a Costco. All three of these offer something in huge abundance: parking space just waiting for the installation of solar shades. Whole Foods installed over 325 kilowatts of solar coverage at one of its biggest locations in Brooklyn, New York in 2015.
GTM Research estimates that by the end of 2016, the solar carport industry
will be worth approximately $843 million mainly in the commercial sector. However, it is believed that the residential sector will see growth in the next few years. The cost of solar carport installation might to $2.50 per watt by 2018 after dropping from $7 per watt in 2010 according to GTM. The falling costs are attributed to a refinement in materials, and reduced labor costs. Another key element in the costs dropping is that solar technology continues to be improved upon, and better, more inexpensive materials are made available to the public all the time.
Another component of a solar carport installation that has seen recent refinements are the purlins used. Purlins rest atop the construction and secure the solar panels. Originally, these were made from aluminium, but companies are pushing this technology as well, into things like roll-formed, light-gauge steel that will offer a lighter weight and stronger construction.
Solar carports are constructed from the ground up; you won’t be simply attaching solar panels to your existing carport. That said, solar carports are certainly able to plug into existing solar systems. The technology began with steel-framed panel technology, but in recent years companies have made great strides in perfecting construction materials that are lightweight and enable a wide variety of customizations. Pre-packaged modular kits are also growing in popularity, offering those interested in the DIY side of solar a fun and beneficial project.
One solar company, S:Flex, offers five different kits for different regions around the country. Each kit is custom tailored to the specific weather patterns of region. The Southwest option, where little snow falls, the Midwest option, where a snow load of about 30 pounds per square foot can be expected, and the Northeast option, which accounts for a snow load of up to 65 pounds per square foot. The company also offers a kit for areas that are hurricane prone, with a wind rating of 180 miles per hour!
A solar carport may seem like an option for those homeowners who, for whatever reason, do not qualify for traditional ground-mount or rooftop panels, but this is not the case. A solar carport can often be a better option due to several factors. Issues with roof angle, orientation, and size don’t factor into the equation with a carport because the panels serve as the roof of the structure and the support system can be arranged as necessary to suite the optimal array size and angle.
Homeowners often run into issues installing a big enough rooftop solar system because they may not have suitable roof space. Likewise, ground-mount installations can offer more room to work with, but ultimately run into the same problem.
So how do all of these systems compare?
The truth is, depending on the quality of solar panels, these systems are very similar. According to Energy Sage Solar Marketplace, a solar carport will cost $3.99 per watt, a rooftop solar system will cost $3.58, and a ground-mount system $3.86. In terms of the percentage need met by each system, Energy Sage estimates that solar carports will meet 88.5%, rooftop solar 90.6%, and ground mount 96.8%. Here’s the takeaway:
solar carports are a viable option for homeowners in 2017. Certain states like Massachusetts are already offering incentives for solar canopy structures over ground mounted ones. Based upon the large number of incentives for more traditional solar systems offered by government at both the state and federal level, it is safe to assume that solar carport incentives will also grow in subsequent years. To Solar Carport or Not to Solar Carport?