In recent years solar carports have gained popularity in the field of renewable energy and many solar integrators have already used solar carport products as part of a utility or commercial scale project. For places where a ground installation is not possible or a roof system is already in place, solar PV carports remain a very viable option.
Read on to learn more about what a solar carport is all about, including what the advantages are, the disadvantages, and where it can be applied.
What is a Solar Carport?
A solar carport is a shaded structure with built-in solar panels that house and protects your vehicle from the elements. The structure is usually built of stainless steel and rests on a concrete foundation. The solar panels are attached to the structure's top, forming a solar panel system.
By installing a solar carport, owners have the benefit of generating power in an easily accessible, pre-owned area to power their existing operations or to produce additional revenue by selling power back into the grid. Solar carports offer the additional advantage of protecting cars from outdoor elements, which can be especially appealing to car dealerships.
Solar Carports vs. Non-Solar Carports
Building a garage can be a costly venture. If you're just looking for a way to keep your car cool and protected from the elements, a carport can be an affordable yet effective option. They don't provide as much security as a garage, but if security isn't a concern, a carport may be the perfect choice for you.
A non-solar carport will provide shelter for your car and is built out of typical building materials such as concrete, bricks or wood. A solar carport, however, is built out of solar panels and can provide energy to your home in addition to providing shelter for your car.
Carport Systems + Bifacial Panels
The additional height and space under a carport system enables more ambient lighting to reflect on the bifacial solar panels. In order to take advantage of the additional ambient lighting, it is important to have the panels' cells free of back shading from the racking system. Trina Solar conducted a study of power gains at different albedo levels and discovered the following percentage of power gains: painted white – 24.6% gain over a monofacial module with the background painted white, sand – 11.81% gain, and grass – 6.7% gain. Other studies prove that white concrete, snow and ice also have very high albedo.
How Do Solar Carports Work?
Solar carports use the same technology to generate solar energy as a typical ground-mounted or rooftop system. Like ground or roof-mounted solar panels, a solar carport converts the energy of photons (light particles) into electricity, a process called the photovoltaic effect.
When a photon hits a solar panel, its energy causes electrons to flow throughout the solar cells, producing an electric current. The resulting electricity is direct current (DC) power, which is commonly used in battery-operated devices. For household or commercial use, this current is converted into alternating current (AC) with an inverter.
Though solar carports utilize the same technology as other solar configurations, they offer several key benefits. First, solar carports require zero additional lands, taking advantage of wasted real estate above parking space. Second, because solar carports are installed higher than ground-mounted systems, they allow optimal orientation to get the most of the sun's rays.
Solar carports offer a more efficient and unobtrusive way to gather energy from the sun when compared to ground-mounted systems. If space is an issue for your home or business, a solar carport is a great way to cash in on clean energy in the most efficient way possible.
Solar Carport VS Rooftop
Rooftop solar panels are a cost-effective way to generate power, but for many homeowners, space, angle, and obstructions make getting enough solar energy from their rooftops difficult. Furthermore, for houses and companies with limited space, ground-mount systems may be out of the question. A solar carport is a potential option in both of these cases.
Solar carports, on the other hand, aren't just a last alternative for individuals who can't install ground or rooftop systems; they can also be more cost-effective. Solar carports, as previously noted, provide additional flexibility for optimal solar panel orientation and make use of otherwise unused space.
Solar carports eliminate roof angle, shading, orientation, and size issues because the solar panels themselves serve as the roof. Solar carport support systems are specifically intended to provide maximum sunshine exposure, which is something that most roofs can't offer.
Another benefit is that if a roof needs to be repaired before a rooftop solar system's warranty expires, there is no additional cost for removing and reinstalling the system while the roof is being repaired. Roofing concerns aren't an issue with a solar carport.
Carports protect vehicles from the elements such as sunshine, wind, rain, and snow. Due to the reduced need to blast the air conditioning to chill the vehicle down upon entry, keeping a car covered during storage actually increases the vehicle's fuel economy. A solar carport offers all of these advantages and more: it protects a car while simultaneously producing clean electricity for a home or company.
Advantages of Solar Carport
Our cars sit idle for 95% of the time, and the places we put them occupy a great deal of space. In cities, about 40% of all paved areas are taken up by exposed parking areas. Paving over a portion of your property for no other reason than to park an idle vehicle is an investment that gets little in return. Solar carports provide a number of benefits, only some of them financial.
1. Reduced Energy Bills
Solar carports are a great option for reducing or even eliminating your energy bill. Carports can provide enough square footage in solar paneling to create a substantial amount of energy for your home.
2. Electric Vehicle Charging
you also have the option to connect EV charging points for staff and visitors to charge their electric vehicles with electricity generated by the PV system, in addition to company EVs.
3. Protects Your Car from the Elements
Aside from the financial and environmental benefits, there's one very simple reason you should install a solar carport: it will protect your car from weather damage. If you live in snowy or rainy areas, a carport can be particularly useful against inclement weather. In addition to providing shade for your vehicle, they can also assist in the collection of rainwater.
4. More Efficient Use Of Space
A solar carport, unlike ground-mounted solar, helps you use space efficiently. Generally, the structure is constructed in the same space you would have had the traditional carport. As a result, you get to use space conveniently. In addition, an existing space can be utilised to boost productivity and comfort for employees, customers, and visitors.
5. Cost Savings
Solar carports, like rooftop and ground-mount solar systems, reduce energy costs, resulting in significant savings for companies and residential structures. Solar carports help businesses and residents save money by lowering their energy expenses and stabilising their revenue.
You may be able to trade the power generated by your solar carport system for credits on your monthly bills, or you may be able to sell the energy generated back to the grid for a higher price than what you're paying for power, depending on your local location.
6. Better Power Generation
Another advantage of a solar carport over a standard solar panel system is the angle of installation. The angle at which solar panels are installed has a significant impact on the amount of sunshine exposure, which influences energy output.
There is a limit to how far you can tilt the panels or even the direction in which they are fastened for roof installations. Solar carports, on the other hand, are adaptable and may be built in a way that maximises exposure and energy output.
7. Easier Maintenance
Like other ground-mounted panels, a solar carport is more accessible and easier to maintain than a rooftop system. It is easier to clear snow or debris from them and to periodically wash them with water—without the need to climb on a sloped roof. Should a homeowner's roof need repair for any reason, there are no panels that need to be removed in order to make the repairs.
Disadvantages of solar carport
While having a solar carport can be beneficial in many ways, there are several reasons why it might not be the best option for you.
1. Building a New Structure
While you'll save on energy bills in the long run, the initial costs of installing a solar carport can be quite high. If you have an existing carport, the pitch of the roof will likely not be able to support solar panels, which have to be angled a certain way to maximize the amount of power they harness from the sun.
2. Cost of Installation
The panels themselves, which range from $16,000 to $18,000 on average for a 5KW system. The solar carport structure used to support the PV panels costs around $2,500. Depending on how much you pay in electricity bills, however, you may easily overcome the cost difference in a matter of two or three years.
3. Maintenance Fees
You'll want to call someone out to service your solar panels annually. An annual inspection costs around $150. You'll also have to clean your solar panels somewhat regularly to ensure they're operating at maximum capacity.
Solar carports really shine because of their multi-purpose nature, which allows them to provide clean energy while also safeguarding your car and saving space. As more people and companies look to generate their own energy and start using electric vehicles, the market potential is huge. This space-saving alternative to ground-mount and rooftop solar PV systems serves a dual purpose in sheltering vehicles and producing clean power.