SOLAR CARPORTS: KILLING TWO BIRDS WITH ONE SUN

In this time of economic “belt-tightening” many business owners and government facilities managers are trying to find more creative ways to fund improvement projects. The emerging trend insolar carports offers one solution to limited funding through the installation of dual purpose carports. Historically, integrators of solar PV have had to find either a rooftop or open space for an installation. Both of these classical approaches presents its own unique set of challenges for solar.

In this time of economic “belt-tightening” many business owners and government facilities managers are trying to find more creative ways to fund improvement projects. The emerging trend in solar carports offers one solution to limited funding through the installation of dual purpose carports. Historically, integrators of solar PV have had to find either a rooftop or open space for an installation. Both of these classical approaches presents its own unique set of challenges for solar.

Planning a solar installation on an existing roof is often more difficult than people anticipate. Many factors such as the existing pitch, orientation, and condition of the roof come into play. Roof installers and roofing material manufactures will often void an existing warranty if the roof is modified. Additionally, with today’s tight design tolerances, many roofs are designed with such precision, that they are not structurally robust enough to accept the additional loads from a solar PV system.

Integrators often look to ground mounted arrays as a means to alleviate some of the technical challenges that may be inherent in a roof system. Ground mounts may, however, bring their own brand of difficulties. Once available real estate near the point of power distribution is located, site owners, hosts and system Integrators may have to work through land easements and/or environmental restrictions in order to move forward with installation.

One of the fastest growing trends in the PV market is the use of carports as a means to support a PV system. It makes perfect sense. After all, a huge parking lot is the ideal location for a solar farm. In a place like Tucson, Arizona, shaded parking is a precious commodity. As a logistical solution to the reduction in grid power consumption during peak daytime hours, commercial solar systems generate electricity when everyone is at work, open for business, and running their air conditioners full blast.

The installation of solar carports not only allows for a strong ROI on funding a site improvement project, but it also allows for a redefinition of the carport. The redefinition from carport to solar carport permits this useful site upgrade to fall into the category of “racking.” This allows the carport project to qualify for tax incentives which would not apply to a simple carport.

Available real estate; check. Tax incentives & Better ROI; check. Capital Improvements; check. Simply put, if your business is wrestling with where to apply funding for its next capital improvement, solar carports could be a win-win-win.