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Solar carports and canopies can power your home

Francisco CastroApril 17, 20194760

If you want a solar panel installation to supply the electricity you need, but for some reason, your home’s roof is not ideal for the placement of solar panels, there are also other ways to tap into renewable energy.

One of these is through a solar carport or canopies.

Several businesses and homes are using them to cover their power needs. 

For instance, a dealership in McKinney, Texas recently announced that it is adding 37 car canopies with 3,456 solar panels, which will produce more power than it actually needs, essentially making its location net--zero energy. The company expects to save more than $4 million in electricity expenses over the 30-year life expectancy of the solar system. 

Apart from generating over 1 MW of clean energy, the canopies will protect one of the largest automotive inventories in the North Texas region from weather damage such as hail and rain, and provide a shaded environment for customers to shop.

The dealership says this will help them with rising insurance premiums due to hail damage the cars on the lot. The solar canopy offers protection and electricity generation in one clean package. 

You can replicate these savings and protection in your home through carports and canopies, although at a much smaller scale.

Solar carports

Solar carports are starting to become more popular for people taking advantage of existing outdoor parking spaces to generate their energy needs. 

A solar carport is a structure lined with solar panels on top where you can park your car underneath. The electricity from the solar panels feed the energy to your home, just the same way as if you had the panels mounted on your roof. 

If you don’t have a garage or park in the driveway, building a solar carport is definitely one way to maximize electricity savings and protect your vehicle.

The carport can also be a great addition if you have an electric car. You can link the solar carport to a car charging unit, facilitating the process and eliminating regular power from your electric car system.

Solar carports can also be beneficial if there’s a lot of shade on your home’s roof or it doesn’t face the right direction (south or southwest). They also make for easier installation of the solar panels and don’t require as much equipment. 

Solar canopies

Similarly, solar canopies are now starting to appear in people’s homes. They allow you to go solar over your driveway, your patio, your woodpile or create a new, covered and shaded outdoor space.

Unlike carports, the canopies are elevated structures still covered by solar panels, but still allow for sunshine to seep through below. 

Solar canopies are also a good idea for those living in a multi-residential building with a balcony or roof area. You can place a canopy in these areas to generate the electricity you can’t because you lack a roof.

Usually, they’re made of a timber, aluminum or steel-frame structure that supports the solar roof. A regular-sized canopy can provide enough electricity to cover the energy needs of an average home. 

Often, the canopies are lined with bi-facial solar panels, which have solar cells on both sides, enabling them to absorb light from the top and bottom. For instance, if the canopy is covered with snow, the underside will still produce power from sunlight reflected off the ground. 

Another advantage of solar canopy structures is that they allow for more air circulation around the solar panels, which actually perform best in cooler temperatures.

If you have an electric car, you can also incorporate an EV charger, smart lighting, electrical outlets, bluetooth speakers, plant holders and bug nets, whatever you need to make this a place for your family to gather and enjoy an outdoor area. 

Some states offer incentives for businesses and homeowners interested in adding these structures to their properties. Maryland has a grant program for commercial-scale PV canopies. In Massachusetts, the new SMART program (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target) includes incentive adders for solar canopies, for instance.

And the savings in your electricity bills will finance the entire purchase and installation of the canopy. It will also increase to your home value when it comes time to sell in terms of aesthetic and energy savings for prospective buyers.

Whatever structure is right for you, a carport or canopy, an experienced solar installer can help you in setting them up. 

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