What is a Solar Carport: How They Work And What is the Cost?

solar carport

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Have you come across the term, solar carport? Here is a guide of what a solar carport is, how it works, as well as how much it will cost you to install one.

What is a Solar Carport: How They Work And Cost

The growing use of solar power has seen more and more incredible solar inventions coming up. With each passing day, new solar gadgets are being introduced into the market. One of these numerous solar inventions that continues to evolve is the solar carport.

Solar carports have become so popular that you can now see in several homes and office premises. They are similar to the typical carports in terms of design, except that they are built with some solar panels which enable them to produce solar power.

Since people have substantially adapted to the use of solar power, these structures are growing more common every day. They represent one of the new and upcoming uses of solar panels.

But what exactly are solar carports? Let’s see the proper definition:

What is a Solar Carport?

A solar carport is an overhead shade designed as parking area shelters with solar panels mounted on them. These structures have multiple similarities with the ground-mounted panels, which are mostly installed on the ground, instead of rooftops.

The major difference between ground-mounted panels and solar carports is that carports are much taller, to help accommodate parked cars. Also, solar carports are more space-efficient than ground-mounted solar panels.

Solar carports are meant to offer shelter to vehicles parked below them, as well as efficiently generate electricity. They are ideal for large parking areas and home driveways.

One unique feature with solar carports is that they don’t demand a surface or a roof for the installation of solar panels.

They are custom-built to include inbuilt solar panels. This makes them different from solar panel installations made on a pre-existing carport. The solar carports serve both as shades for vehicles and a source of clean energy.

Presently in the US, the solar panel carports are more prevalent in the commercial markets than in the residential ones. More businesses are embracing the installation of huge solar canopies for their parking lots.

How Much Does a Solar Carport Cost?

Although we might not get the precise answer to this question, we can use some estimates to calculate some average figures. Usually, residential solar carports tend to be more competitive in terms of costs, in comparison with the home solar system. However, they tend to produce less wattage all the same.

For example, most residential solar systems will go for around $3.20 to $5 for every watt; this can represent a 2,000-watt residential solar carport for $3.80 per watt.

Analysts say that the average price of solar carports gradually continues to decrease, and this trend may continue.

To try and show how much it will cost you to install a solar carport, let’s take the following example.

Assuming that the frame costs you $2,500, for a 5kW system that costs something around $18,000, it means that your total cost will be around $20,500. When you deduct a 30% rebate, the cost goes down to about $14,350. 

Different Types of Solar Carports

solar carport
cleantechnica.com

Just like the regular home solar system, which comes in various types and sizes, so do solar carports. Typically, the size of the solar carport you buy depends on how much energy you need. Therefore, the higher your needs are, the large solar carport you will need, and the more expensive it will be.

Some are just enough to hold just a single car, while other bigger ones can accommodate multiple cars. The solar carports also come in various designs and materials. For example, some simple steel or aluminum, while others have wooden stands.

Therefore, when making a purchase, you can shop around for a design that matches both your needs and preferences. Also, solar carports are made of different types of solar panels. For example, they can be made of monocrystalline silicon or polycrystalline modules.

You can also choose from either one with a frame or a frameless one. The frameless ones, however, look unique and more attractive. Therefore, if you want an exclusive design, then a frameless one can suit you best.

Again, the frameless solar panels come in two categories, one that contains a back sheet and glass-on-glass solar panels. The glass-on-glass ones are built by fitting solar cells, in between two glass plates. This makes it transparent and quite attractive.

On the other hand, the ones that contain a back sheet are built by fitting a back sheet on the rear side of the solar panel.

Where Are You Likely to Find Solar Carports?

Solar carports are largely found in commercial areas, more than residential parking lots. This is because the business world has quite embraced this concept much more. With the increase in the use of solar power and the decrease in prices of the same, many companies have taken advantage of the solar carport concept.

Some of these companies that have taken the frontline in adapting to the concept include:

  • Back in 2014, “Whole Foods” built a 325 kW solar carport on their premises in Brooklyn, NY. This project saw them cover the entire parking area with solar panels.
  • “Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training (LM MST)” also have had multiple solar carports mounted at their premises in Clearwater, FL.
  • Rutgers University produces around 60% of its annual energy needs from an extensive solar carports array. This solar array, which is installed on a 28-acre parking space, generates an average of 8 megawatts.
  • Intel has installed two solar carports, one of them at its Folsom California campus, and another one at its Chandler Ocotillo campus. These two solar carports are among the largest in the country. The California one produces around 8.7 megawatts of solar energy, while the Chandler one generates an average of 7.7 megawatts.

Most of these companies view the solar carports as investments into their future electricity needs and savings. And, since the parking lots are already there, improving them or upgrading their value through the use of solar carports, seems like an incredible idea.

Solar carport installation is beneficial both to the business, as well as the labor members involved. 

How to Install Solar Carports

Currently, the residential carports idea is still in its budding stages. Therefore, it might not be easy to find an installer who only specializes in that. However, if you need a solar carport installed for you, most ground mount array installers can do the job for you.

Also, if you want just a small, off-grid solar carport system, you might think of a DIY option. One thing to note, though, you must do in-depth research of everything you need for the installation.

When doing it yourself, you must get several quotations from different companies to ensure that you get the best deal.

Thorough research will help you to have options, as well as save, and get the right size for your solar carport.

Benefits of Solar Carports

Just like regular solar power systems, a solar panel carport also has various benefits. These include:

  • Flexibility

One of the most obvious benefits of installing a solar carport is its flexibility in installation customization. For example, in rooftop solar panels installations, many limiting factors may occur.

These may include the number of panels your roof can hold, as well as the design of your roof, which may limit your choice of panels.

But, unlike these rooftop installations, a solar carport doesn’t face these challenges. With solar carports, you can install any number of solar panels you want, as long as you have space.

  • Positioning Angle

Another benefit of installing a solar carport as compared to a regular solar panel system is the angle of placement. The angle at which the solar panels are placed has major effects on the amount of exposure to sunlight, which in return affects energy production.

For the roof installations, there is a limitation on how much you can tilt the panels or even the direction at which they are fixed.

However, solar carports are flexible and can be structured in a way that ensures maximum exposure and energy production.

  • Easily Integrated Into The Home System

If again you want to integrate your solar carport with a home battery for power storage, or an EV (electric vehicle) charging port, you can easily do so. This is because the solar energy a solar carport produces is just the same as the one generated in a conventional solar panel system.

Therefore, you can use this energy for various power needs at your home. You can also exchange the power for some credits from the grid.

  • Solar Carports Are Easier maintenance

For those with rooftop solar panel installations, you will, in most cases, require to contact an expert or a company for any maintenance. With a solar professional, the cost of maintenance can significantly go up.

On the other hand, if you have a solar parking structure, it is much easier to access, and you can even service the panels yourself. If you can do the maintenance yourself, the cost will be lower and allow you to save.

  • Zero Risk of Roof Repairs

In case you have installed a rooftop solar system, and your roof needs major repairs, then the panels will be affected. You will have to remove the panels for the repairs to take place, which will definitely cost you some money.

However, with solar carport, you will not encounter any such challenges. This makes solar carports much safer and economical in such an event.

  • Offers Shelter For Your Car

The solar carports not only offer solar energy for the homeowner or business, but it also provides a safe parking space for their vehicles. For example, in harsh weather conditions, the carport will shield the car from the adverse weather elements such as snow or very hot sun rays.

During very hot days, the cool shades help protect the car from the sun, which may lower gas expenses. And, in addition to acting as a shade to your car, they also can help in collecting rainwater.

  • Charging Your Electric Car

Those with electric vehicles can take advantage of charging the car from the solar carport. This will considerably lower your gas costs, which will reduce your car running expenses.

This is possible because you can easily incorporate a car charging system in the solar carport design. Through this, you can save both save in electricity and gas.

  • Solar Carports Saves On Space

When comparing a solar carport with a ground-mounted system, you will note that the former doesn’t require any extra structures or space for installation. Since space is scarce in most residential properties, the use of solar panel carports is greatly desired to make use of the available space.

The solar carport structures consume less space than ground-mounted ones. Therefore, even if your space is limited, you can still access solar energy through solar carports.

Conclusion On Solar Carports

From this article on how a solar carport works and its benefits, we can clearly see that these structures come with several benefits. If you had any questions on the same, I hope this article offers you the information you were looking for and more.

In case of any comment or observation, feel free to leave a comment in our comments area.

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