There’s more than one place to install solar PV and start producing clean energy from your residential or commercial property. The use of solar PV carports is one innovative and exciting area that is gaining traction because of the multiple benefits that are on offer.
Read on to learn more about what exactly solar carports are all about, what the benefits are, and where it can be applied.
Source: STEAG Solar Energy Solutions
What Are Solar PV Carports?
Solar PV carports are solar panels installed above your carport to generate electricity from the sun. There are two main ways of achieving this. Firstly, you can retrofit solar PV panels onto the roof of an existing carport. The second method is to use purpose-built structures that integrate solar panels as the roofing of the carport. Both setups do not affect the function of the carport to shield vehicles from the elements.
The Growing Popularity
The specific benefits of a solar PV carport installation are discussed in the next section. This setup is growing in popularity both internationally and locally across Southern Africa. Many homes and commercial properties have existing carports that can be transformed into an energy-producing structure. There is excellent solar radiation in Southern Africa, and the solar power industry as a whole continues to boom, both in small-scale and large-scale solar PV installation projects. The solar PV carport installation at the Springfield Makro and a few other Makro sites across South Africa are notable examples.
There is huge untapped potential in solar PV carport installations. According to one survey looking at the number of carports in the USA and the potential power generation from solar PV, the USA could be losing out on a potential 5 Billion kW/hr in solar PV power.
What Are the Advantages of Solar PV Carports?
If you are looking to be more green and considering alternative energy usage on your property, then a solar PV carport can be an excellent next step. Here are some of the key advantages to take note of:
- Dual utilization of the same space – With solar PV carports, you are simply adding another function to your carport. There is no need to find and allocate additional land or roofing area as you might have to do with conventional solar PV installations, where space is at a premium
- An additional source of energy – One way to address the power challenges is to generate more energy. You can use this additional electricity to supplement the electricity you normally obtain from the grid.
- Solar energy is clean- Compared with other traditional ways of producing energy, solar energy is clean and renewable. You don’t have to worry about noise, fumes, combustion and pollution like you might with thermal power generation such as diesel generators.
- Solar energy is cheaper- It is cheaper to produce electricity from solar PV on a unit to unit comparison. Once the initial installation costs are recouped, solar provides a long-term cost-saving advantage.
Solar Carport Applications
Solar PV carports are a great way to make use of an often-forgotten space. As seen from the list of benefits, these systems allow you to generate clean and cheaper electricity on a residential or commercial property, even where space is limited.
Attractive sites include areas of high vehicle parking areas such as shopping malls, office parks, residential communal living areas, hospitals and the like.
The power generated can be used in several ways, depending on the electricity consumption of the home or property. You can also install battery storage to store any additional power generated beyond what can be used immediately.
If you own an electrical vehicle, then having a solar PV carport is a convenient and economical way to meet some of its power needs. You can install an electric vehicle’s charging station with the carport and connect it to the solar PV on the roof.
If the solar PV panels are to be retrofitted onto an existing carport, then it is important to determine whether they can accommodate the weight of the solar PV. A professional structural engineering assessment is advisable to ensure that structural integrity is not compromised.
When the solar PV carport is a new installation, there is more flexibility in how the structure is designed and set up. Aesthetics and vehicle parking considerations are important and it is important to get the foundation design correct to ensure structural integrity without compromising the ability for vehicles to maneuver in and out of the parking bays.
The tilt of the solar PV carport and orientation is another important consideration. The best way to angle the carport roof is so that the panels get maximum exposure to the sun based on the location of the site and thus, maximise the electricity yield.
Other specific design considerations for solar PV carports include location of inverters, DC and AC cable routes and trenches to ensure that they do not impede the core functionality of the carport to service vehicles and to ensure they are safely out of way to not be a visual and safety interference.
Solar Carport Costs
In a US survey comparing solar PV carports, roof installations, and ground-mounted solar panels, the cost of generating electricity from all three setups is analyzed. The results are in the table below.
Source: Energy Sage
While the table shows that solar PV carports are currently the higher costing of the three options, as far as cost per watt, there is room for growth. This application is still the newest, but there is tremendous potential, which could drive down the generation costs tremendously.
For places where a ground installation is not possible or a roof system is already in place, solar PV carports remain a very viable option. Additionally, where there is an actual need for a new carport, opting for a solar carport will come in cheaper than the summed costs of a separate conventional carport and separate rooftop solar PV system.
There is still a lot of room for growth as far as solar PV carport installations. As more people and companies look to generate their own energy and start using electric vehicles, the market potential is huge. This space-saving alternative to ground-mount and rooftop solar PV systems serves a dual purpose in sheltering vehicles and producing clean power.
We are also a proudly South African sustainable engineering company that provides professional engineering consulting & turn-key solutions in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage & backup power. The company is a 100% black-owned, 41% black female-owned company achieving a Level 1 BBBEE Contributor status, and has a passion to transform the energy industry without compromising on safety, quality and client satisfaction. Learn more about the company’s team here