Solar carports are a growing player in the U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) industry. In fact, according to GTM Research, U.S. solar contractors are projected to install a whopping 180 MW of generating capacity from solar carports in 2014, which will represent the fourth year in a row that carports have added at least 100 MW of capacity to the grid.*
Solar carports are essentially free standing solar PV arrays that are set up in central locations, often parking areas. Most solar carports are equipped to move with the sun in a manner that enables them to optimize their sunlight capture throughout the day. The main advantage of solar carports is that companies can generate free, green electricity in a practical area and without having to waste space. There are other advantages too:
- Solar carports can generate huge amounts of electricity – Solar carports are advantageous to business owners, because they can generate a lot of electricity, simply because most parking areas have lots of surface area. The more surface area, the more power that can be generated from your solar PV systems. This means that companies can easily power their own businesses (and reduce their monthly electricity bills) while generating excess power that, in most states, can actually be sold back to the grid.
- Users like solar carports – Beyond their economic potential, solar carports provide shade to users’ cars. So employees or customers that park in a solar carport can block out the sun, thereby protecting their car from damage due to radiant light and overheating.
Solar carports under construction at DeAnza College in Cupertino, California. (2011) Source: Darin Dingle/Flickr
- Solar carports are good PR – Solar carports are highly visible to the public. As a result, many businesses like them, because they help them demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in an approachable and more public way.
- Solar carports displace the need to erect arrays elsewhere – As states make the transition to green power, they need to identify locations where they can erect solar power plants that have enough capacity to meet demand. In some instances, states and utility companies have sought the use of public lands, which has raised concerns about the footprint of solar PV. By tapping into already paved areas, like parking lots, solar carports can offset the need for development in some of these wild, public areas.
In the past, the solar carport market has been driven by government and utility subsidies that have driven the costs for investment down considerably. While these subsidies still certainly sweeten the deal, the reality is that the solar market is taking off and costs are coming down on their own rather quickly. Together with available local and state tax incentives and a 30% federal tax credit, installing solar panels on new and existing carports make more sense than ever before.
This is evidenced by growth of the market outside of California. California has traditionally been the biggest player in the solar carport market, but in recent years, other states have started to penetrate the market. Specifically, many east coast players, like New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey are getting into the solar carport game, as well as sunny states like Arizona.
Interested in installing solar panels on your new or existing carport? We can help! Call us at 888.680.2427 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your project and receive free advise from our solar PV sales experts!