The increasing adoption rate of solar technology has led to both surprising innovations as well as obvious and practical applications. One such application of solar technology is found in solar carports.
Solar carports are an offshoot of traditional carports, which provide shade and protection for your vehicle. Typical carports are much different from solar carports however, and call for different hardware and installations.
Solar carports use similar equipment as ground mounted solar panel systems, and therefore require a similar installation process as well. Here is everything that you need to know about solar carports.
We discussed carports on a recent Pick My Solar LIVE deep dive! Skip to 5:15 to hear Patrick and Rex talk about the ins and outs of installing a carport system.
What Are Solar Carports?
What makes solar carports unique is that they do not require a roof or surface that the solar panels must attach to.
This is different from installing solar panels on an existing carport which already has a built in roof. Solar carports are customized to include solar panels in their structure. The panels themselves serve as a dual-purpose solution for both covering the owners vehicle and for producing clean energy.
Solar carports are essentially taller ground mounted solar panels. They are simply lifted high enough so that a vehicle can fit below.
The Benefits of Solar Carports
The primary benefit of having a solar carport is that it gives you flexibility in the way that you can customize your solar project. When installing solar panels on a rooftop, there are many variables that may limit where the panels are placed.
A ground based system can be built anywhere and to any specifications. Your rooftop may not be able to support 100% of the solar panels that you want to install, so having a solar carport can open up this opportunity to any property owner.
The direction of your solar panels and the angle at which they are placed has a large impact on the amount of energy being produced. A solar carport can be structured to optimize the positioning of your solar panels, whereas this may not be as simple for a rooftop solar panel system.
The electricity being produced by your solar carport is just like any other solar energy — it can be used in your home, stored in a battery, exchanged for credits in the grid, or funneled into your EV battery. Overall, a solar carport gives you a significant amount of flexibility over how you use your solar energy.
Commercial and Public Solar Carports
Solar carports are also found commonly throughout cities across the nation in the parking lots of commercial and other public or private entities. Whether it is a corporation, recreation center, high school, church, or basketball stadium, parking lots all over are being converted into large-scale solar carports.
The way that these organizations view a solar carport is that it is an investment into their future electricity savings. The available real estate in a parking lot is a perfect fit for adding solar panels to a business or other organization. It brings value for both the organization and their members.
In fact, Intel installed two of the largest solar carports in the country at both their Folsom California campus and their Chandler Ocotillo campus. The California carport generates a total of 8.7 megawatts (MW) of electricity, and the Chandler carport generates approximately 7.7 megawatts of electricity and includes 30,000 solar panels. The majority of large corporations that operate in states where solar is viable are following this trend and installing their own solar carports.
Public and private solar carports for organizations like businesses and nonprofits bring two main benefits: 1) They save the organization money through their energy production, and 2) They can direct excess funds from these savings into other relevant solutions like EV chargers in their parking lots.
Organizations that have both a solar carport and integrated EV charging ports are especially sought out by members who own electric vehicles, due to the money that they can save from its use.
A Practical Solution
Solar carports are a very viable and straightforward solution that can benefit anyone looking to go solar. They are simple structures that serve as a cover for vehicles and as a source of solar energy production.
The simplicity of solar carports are evident when considering their basic form of just solar panels and a ground mounting system. This differs from the traditional carport in that it does not include a roof surface. At the end of the day, a solar carport is a great option for individuals who want more flexibility in how they set up their solar project.