In this special edition of Contractors Corner, solar manufacturer Baja Carports talks about design considerations for solar carports across the country, and battery integration plans on the horizon. Below is a portion of the company’s Solar Spotlight podcast with Solar Power World, but be sure to listen to the full episode here or on your favorite podcast app for an inside look at carport design and timelines.
What are the different carport models Baja offers?
Baja offers a variety of steel canopies to fit any particular project location and work scope needs. We have basically three kind of structures we can do — light gauge high tensile steel, which is your most cost-effective way of building a carport; three-plate system, which is kind of between the structural steel and the light gauge; and then of course we’ve got structural steel.
Everything we do is prefabricated steel, so out of those three types of structures, semi-cantilevered, which means the column is about where the door hinge is, is probably our most cost-effective product.
What goes into designing each solar carport system?
You have to worry about the location where it is, because you’re going to be affected by live load, wind load, snow load, seismic and clear height.
To get a really accurate bid, a soils report would be certainly helpful. Our structures are designed with a pure design embedded column as our primary design. We could also do raised foundation with base plates and anchors, it’s just a matter of preference with our customers.
What does a carport look like in Maine vs. in California?
In Maine, you’re going to have pretty substantial snow loads, so it’s probably going to have to be structural steel. On the East Coast, generally speaking, we don’t use poured-in-place footing. On the West Coast, we do pretty much everything poured-in-place, where on the East Coast, we use raised footings.
On the West Coast, you have a lot more seismic than you do on the East. On the East Coast, you have other issues on degree of pitch and what are you going to do with the snow — are you going to use snow guards, etc.
What is a typical timeline for solar carport design and installation?
Steel pricing is going up monthly, sometimes weekly. Production schedules are all over the board depending upon what kind of model you want and where it’s going. Steel manufacturers are running out of steel, there are shortages. Most of the manufacturers right now that we deal with are running from eight to 12 weeks, so after we do the plans and calc, it could take eight to 12 weeks to get the material from the time you place it to get it on the job site and if there’s a shortage, it’s indeterminable.
If you want a carport in four or five months, you better give us an order right now for two reasons: One is you want to have the steel on the site so it doesn’t hold up your project. The second reason is some suppliers are raising their prices 6-7% every month.
How are Baja systems incorporating batteries as storage technology is becoming more desirable and affordable?
We’re currently working on a large solar RV and boat storage facility that is around 7 MW that we will basically sell back to the utility, because there is a requirement now in California that the utilities are looking for power production that they can immediately receive the power for. So that opens up possible PPAs and some feed-in tariffs at a fairly good price.
That’s a perfect way to use batteries. Especially on such a large roof area, it really makes it easy, and with the two basically profit centers, it makes it very lucrative and a great business model.
We’re also working with some battery companies trying to figure out how to integrate the batteries within the carport itself. Our light gauge carport has pretty big areas inside the columns and the beams that you can actually put the batteries in there.
This podcast is sponsored by Baja Carports