Kaitlin LindrosAugust 5, 20196110
As the hit 2000’s Counting Crows song goes:
“They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot.”
There are over 250 million cars, and as many as 2 billion parking spaces in the US, with one third of these in parking lots. Cars have taken over much of what used to be beautiful land, creating an urban wasteland.
With parking lots taking up so much space, why not put that space to good use and maybe save some of the paradise that is left?
Solar carports are overhead canopies made of solar panels, built to cover parking lots. This means you can park your car in the shade of solar panels while the sun charges them and makes energy.
Plus, you can cut down on your vehicle's carbon emissions with the energy produced while it is parked (even more so if you have an electric vehicle and charging station integrated).
It's a win-win for everyone.
Distinct from attaching solar panels to existing car park structures, solar carports are very similar to ground mounted solar panels, but with more space to allow for cars to park beneath them. Solar carparks have solar panels built into the structure so you do not need a roof to install them.
The great advantage of these over traditional ground mount panels is that they do not require extra space, since they are using the same space that a parking space or lot is. They are also much more flexible than rooftop solar installations in requirements such as angle and system size, and you can customize them to include a home battery or electric vehicle (EV) charging port.
Carports can be residential or commercial.
If you are looking to install solar at home, but don’t have the appropriate roof for rooftop solar panels (or if you just want to optimize your solar installation) a home solar carport might be a great alternative.
Rather than using up additional space in your yard for a ground-mounted system, you can simply build yourself a mini outdoor solar garage or patio cover.
Also, even if your roof is suitable for a rooftop solar array, a solar carport may still be a better option. You won’t need to worry about your roof tilt, orientation, or size when installing your solar panels because the carport itself acts as the roof and can be adjusted as needed.
Carports can actually be easier to install, as you don’t need to evaluate your roof's structure or alter it in order to install panels. And since the panels are the roof on a carport, they stay cooler as well, increasing efficiency on hot days.
In terms of cost, solar carports can be a little bit more expensive than rooftop or ground mount systems - for now. But they are not too much more expensive, and we anticipate that prices may drop quicker than other types of installations over the next few years.
Plus, if your roof isn’t optimal for solar, you could actually save more by maximizing solar energy production in the long run.
Plus, who actually parks their car in the garage? Chances are, unless you are super orgranized, your garage is full of Christmas and Halloween decorations, old photo albums, and boxes of paperwork. So why not build yourself a solar car park and keep your car shady while saving on energy bills?
Much more popular than residential solar carports in the US at the moment, many businesses, schools, churches, stadiums, nonprofits, and more have embraced solar by turning their parking lots into massive commercial solar canopies.
To organizations, adding a solar carport can be a great investment in future energy savings, while providing shade to cars parking under them. Organizations can also use the extra funds from the energy savings to to invest in other green solutions, like EV chargers.
Solar carports help organizations meet their sustainability goals and demonstrate environmental stewardship. They can provide an excellent marketing opportunity and point of pride in local communities.
Solar carparks can make it easier to maintain a parking lot by shading it from snow, rain, and ice. Not to mention keeping cars cool in summer to avoid the unpleasant sensation of accidentally burning your arm on a piece of metal while the AC cranks up (and floods the atmosphere with emissions).
Some of the major commercial carparks installed include:
- Intel's Ocotillio Campus, a 7.7-MW, 3,200-space solar carpark in Chandler, AZ; and Folsom Campus, a 6.5-MW, 2,500-space in Folsom, CA.
- France’s mammoth 16.3-MW, 4,600-space carpark at renewable energy developer Neoen in Corbas.
- Michigan State University’s 13-MW, 5,000-space series of carports, saving the university about $10 million in electricity costs over 25 years.
With more and more corporations adopting solar, according to the SEIA's Solar Means Business Report, we think that solar parking lots will be a huge market for the solar industry as a whole moving forward. Just think of all the Target and Walmart parking lots nationwide that could benefit from solar carports!
So "put up a parking lot" and reserve your space under the shade of a greener future today.
Would you prefer a rooftop solar array or solar carport for your home? Leave a comment below!
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