It is important to know the difference between a solar carport and a traditional carport if you are considering installing one on your property. A solar carport is typically made of metal, has no ceiling, and does not provide any shade. It also needs to be installed in an open area with minimal obstructions for maximum efficiency.
On the other hand, a traditional carport provides shelter from harsh weather conditions such as rain or snow; it can have up to 3-4 sections that act as walls and ceilings; it can even offer some security by providing protection from intruders. Although they both serve different purposes, either option will protect your vehicle from UV rays which reduces paint fading and lowers interior temperatures during hot days.
Solar carports are an offshoot of traditional carports, which provide shade and protection for your vehicle.
Solar carports use similar equipment as ground-mounted solar panel systems and therefore require a similar installation process as well. Here is everything that you need to know about solar carports.
What are solar carports?
Solar carports are pretty straightforward: car canopies with solar panels on top. They’re commonly found in commercial parking structures or larger residential driveways.
Technology-wise, solar carports are most similar to solar ground mounts, with the design of both the carport and the ground mount designed to get the most optimal sunlight exposure. The advantage is that if you need vehicle storage or covered patio space anyway, solar carports allow you to use less of your land.
Solar carports are overhead canopies built to cover parking areas and are distinct from panels installed onto a pre-existing carport structure. What makes solar carports unique is that they do not require a roof or surface that the solar panels must attach to. This is absolutely different from installing solar panels on an existing carport that already has a built-in roof. Solar carports are customized to include solar panels in their structure. The panels themselves serve as a dual-purpose solution for both covering the owner’s vehicle and for producing clean energy.
Both grounds mounts solar and solar carports eliminate the need for a surface on which the panels could be mounted. The primary difference between a solar carport and a typical ground mount installation is that carports are taller in order to make space for a car to park. Otherwise, the two are quite similar and each offers the benefit of allowing installers to orient the panels at the most optimal angle for sunlight exposure.
Solar carport structures
Solar carports are customized to include solar panels in their structure, they are essentially taller ground-mounted solar panels. Solar carports are simply lifted high enough so that a vehicle can fit below.
The great advantage of solar carports and solar patio covers is that can offer more efficient use of space than ground-mounted panels.
Video demonstrates the basic structure of a solar carport.
The differences between comparing commercial and residential carports
Today, solar carports are much more popular in the U.S. commercial sector than in residential markets. Many businesses have embraced the idea of installing massive solar canopies for parking lots.
When it comes to commercial and residential solar canopies, there are a number of different layouts and sizes available. Depending on the number of rows of parking required, a photovoltaic carport is typically one, two, or three rows wide. Solar parking lots, by comparison, can be large enough to span dozens of rows of parking. Installing a solar canopy can power your home, or it can turn a wide-open stretch of pavement into a major electricity generator.
Type of solar carports
There are many types of solar carports shape depending on different construction being in the corner of the panels The panels will either be angled upwards in one direction, angled and curved in one direction leading to a flat surface, or very slightly angled to the point of appearing flat, typically in order to provide shading and coverage for the vehicle.
Commercial solar carports will almost always need a steel metal foundation, which adds a significant expense to the total installation. By comparison, smaller residential carports have flexibility around structure material and design – a homeowner could choose a larger carport layout or a smaller patio cover to host a modest solar system.
The benefits of solar carport
+ Reduce energy costs, and save significantly: a solar carport can help hedge against rising utility costs by lowering energy bills and making them more predictable.
+ Reducing the costs of maintaining a parking lot: Depending on the design of the carport, it can channel rain and snow to certain areas, which in turn reduce the cost of removal and maintenance; this can also make the parking lot safer during winter by minimizing the amount of ice in the parking area.
+ Reduce their carbon footprint: By installing a solar carport your business can have sustainable operations that benefit the environment and the community. A sustainable business can foster an environment of high engagement and morale in its employees
+ Efficient use of space: Solar carports can protect vehicles from the sun to prevent overheating, and it protects vehicles from rain and snow. By providing shade to prevent cars from overheating in the sun, solar carports can actually improve the car owner’s fuel economy.
+ Adaptability: A solar panel carport can be used to fit the needs of a business. Everything from size to style can be designed by the business owner and can result in a project that pays off quickly and starts bringing immediate cash flow.
The restrictions on solar carports
How much does a solar carport cost?
The cost for the construction and installation of solar carports is relatively high. Today, prices are dropping, and building a solar canopy is cheaper now that building a solar roof a few years ago. It may be challenging to find various engineers and designers that can construct a safe working solar canopy. The cost for solar carports varies depending on 3 things"
- The size of your carport
- The amount of electricity used
- The price of electricity at your place
According to Big Dog Solar, “a solar carport will cost $3.99 per watt, a rooftop solar system will cost $3.58, and a ground-mount system $3.86".
You can expect to have your 3,526 sq. ft. residential solar carports cost about $67,275 and 68,000+ sq. ft. carport costs more than $1,332,800, according to Solar Electric Supply.
In some states, the price of electricity is cheaper than that in other states, which indirectly makes your solar carport plans to be more expensive. On the other hand, you would find the installation fee of a solar carport is attractive in places where electricity is super expensive.
How much energy can a solar carport transfer?
Solar panels can only produce energy effectively until the sun goes down on a clear sunny day. When the sun does not shine on a cloudy day or at night time, batteries will be needed to store for later energy use.
On top of expensive battery costs, semiconductor inverters are needed to convert the battery power to match the grid. In addition, maintenance will be needed when issues arise.
DIY solar options
Although solar panel carports are still a new and growing product offering in the U.S. solar industry, it may not be obvious to get one for your home. However, the majority of installers who work with ground mount arrays should also be able to install solar carports. If you are interested in a smaller off-grid system, rather than one that powers your entire home, you can also explore DIY solar options.
Solar carports are a very viable and straightforward solution that can benefit anyone looking to go solar. They are simple structures that serve as a cover for vehicles and as a source of solar energy production.
The simplicity of solar carports is evident when considering their basic form of just solar panels and a ground mounting system. This differs from the traditional carport in that it does not include a roof surface. At the end of the day, a solar carport is a great option for individuals who want more flexibility in how they set up their solar project.