One of the fastest growing trends in the photovoltaic market is the use of carports as a means to support a PV system. An ideal location to build solar carports is anywhere that there is a parking lot and limited shading from trees and tall buildings. Companies are choosing to tap power typically lost to blacktop by producing electricity for wholesale generation, net-metering or EV/PHEV charging stations. The economic effects of net-metering to peak shave or wholesale distribution with a Feed-In-Tariff Program on a capital improvement project cannot be ignored.
The solar carport also provides shade, which not only protects the vehicles from the harsh effects of the sun but minimizes radiant heat transfer, which will require more of the car’s energy to cool down. The unique design offers an elevated racking system that holds the solar modules at the precise angle to maximize energy production with enough clearance and structural integrity engineered into these solar support structures that vehicles can park underneath and enjoy the benefits of shade.
A solar carport design will maximize both leasehold improvements and aid in energy reduction and independence with minimized expenses. Additional advantages when compared against the roof model are no roof penetrations or water protrusion points of concerns, or engineering costs regarding the age and integrity of the roof. Roof warranties and other building system logistics that are directly impacted with rooftop installations are of no consequence to solar carports.
If a business is wrestling with where to apply funding for its next capital improvement, solar carports should not be ignored. Financing for commercial solar projects (less than 5 MW) are not as readily available with the expiration of the 1603 Grant – tax equity markets are just not interested in “small deals.” The single greatest way to tip the models and create some interest in a solar projects is to consider solar carports. Accelerated depreciation and tax strategies using solar along with possible secondary revenue benefits associated with the shaded parking will create financing opportunities.
Solar carports are continuing to pop up at an increasingly rapid rate with not only universities and colleges and schools, but many businesses, too. Solar carports are used in a variety installations including, but not limited to, solar farms, electric vehicle charging stations, truck bays and RV and boat Storage. Solar carports come in various different standard styles to choose from based on design and budget needs, and custom designs are also available.
By: Robin Heuer, Consultant at Baja Construction