Solar Carports aka Solar Canopies are becoming one of the most popular rooftop solar PV installations. While they are still a small fraction of the overall solar energy market, we are seeing an increased appetite for solar carports relative to a few years ago. Although this interest from customers is not new and Staten has been getting inquiries from various corporate customers about carports for many years. But the question that arises here is that “Is it a Smart Move?”
The answer is a big Yes! and the reasons are several. So, what are the benefits that a solar carport or solar canopy can offer over a ground mount solar project?
How we typically go with solar arrays: We majorly build them on open space rather than in developed areas. It means, they overwhelmingly occupy croplands, arid lands, and grasslands, not rooftops or parking lots. In the United States, for instance, roughly 51% of utility-scale solar facilities are in deserts; 33% are on croplands, and 10% are in grasslands and forests. Just 2.5% of U.S. solar power comes from urban areas.
The reason behind doing it this way is that it is cheaper to build on undeveloped land than on rooftops or in parking lots. And building alternative power sources fast and cheap is critical in the race to replace fossil fuels. Secondly, it is easier to manage a few big solar farms in an open landscape than a thousand small ones scattered across urban areas.
But that doesn’t necessarily make it smarter. Undeveloped land is a rapidly dwindling resource, and what’s left is under pressure to deliver a host of other services like — growing food, sheltering wildlife, storing, and purifying water, preventing erosion, and sequestering carbon, among others.
Why should you consider Solar Carports?
Whereas the appeal of parking lots and rooftops, by contrast, is that they are abundant, close to customers, largely untapped for solar power generation, and on land that’s already been stripped of much of its biological value. While a typical carport also provides shading and is undoubtedly a value-add, its one-dimensional simplicity is a missed opportunity.
A typical Walmart Supercenter, for instance, has a 5-acre parking lot, and it’s a wasteland. Put a Solar Canopy over it and it easily could support a ~3MW Solar Array. In addition to providing all that power to the store, the neighbouring community, or the cars sheltered underneath, the solar canopy would shade customers — and keep them shopping longer, as their car batteries top-up.
Suppose Walmart did that at all 3,571 of its U.S. supercenters, the total capacity would be 11.1 gigawatts of solar power — roughly equivalent to a dozen large coal-fired power plants. Taking account of the part-time nature of solar power, that would be enough to permanently shut down four of those power plants.
Solar Carport Cost
Like rooftop or ground-mounted solar, solar carport costs vary depending on the type of solar panel you choose, how much power you want to generate, how much space you want to cover, and more.
A commercial solar carport, for example, usually spans one to three rows of vehicles, with many spanning as many as a dozen or more. Commercial solar carports almost always require steel construction, a further cost to the installation. But while they come with multimillion-dollar price tags, they also provide multimillion-dollar benefits.
Rooftop Solar vs Solar Carport: What you should choose?
There isn’t any doubt that rooftop solar is the cheapest option for generating electricity, but for many homeowners and business owners, space, angle, and obstructions present significant obstacles to getting enough solar energy out of their rooftops. Furthermore, ground-mount systems may be out of the question for homes and businesses pressed for space. In both of these scenarios, a solar carport is a viable alternative.
For many homeowners, the decision will come down to price. You can get started with cost comparisons by filling out the form here to get a free, no-obligation quote from Staten Solar. You can also reach us at (408) 780-2889.