What Is A Solar Carport And How Could One Benefit Your Clients?
Updated: Dec 2, 2022
Originally Published: June 2021
Updated: November 30th, 2022
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) estimates that 13% of all residential homes will have solar installed in some capacity by 2030. One such application that’s gaining traction is the solar carport.
Photovoltaic contractors looking to expand their operations should consider adding solar carports to their list of installation services. With PV panel prices trending downward and electric vehicle (EV) sales on the rise, demand for solar carports will only increase in the years to come.
In this article, we’ll walk through what a solar carport is, how it works, and how your clients could benefit.
What Is A Solar Carport?
A solar carport is a covered parking area with a canopy made from PV panels. Sometimes these carports are designed for a single parking spot – like in residential driveways. Other times, they might be strung together in a series to cover entire commercial parking lots.
Either way, solar carport owners benefit from cheaper and cleaner electricity, while also providing shade and protection for their vehicles.
Some companies offer DIY solar carport kits that homeowners can install themselves. The benefit with these systems is homeowners could realize a cheaper installation price. But, the drawbacks are numerous, most notably, some if not all DIY-installed systems will not qualify for the 30% federal tax credit.
How Does A Solar Carport Work?
Unlike with traditional PV installations attached to rooftops, ground-mounted PV systems rely on tilted panels installed several feet off the ground.
Solar carport structures use a ground-mounted model – except that the solar panels are installed even higher off the ground to provide enough clearance for parked vehicles. Some solar carports also come with in-built electric vehicle (EV) charging stations so that drivers can top up their batteries while out shopping or at home.
How Much Does A Solar Carport Cost?
In the U.S., a standard solar carport system might cost between $3.45 and $4.00 per watt, with these expenses going toward the panels themselves, the carport structure, labor, wiring, and other components. For an average-sized, 5kW system, Understand Solar breaks down the cost for the following:
Solar panels for a 5kW system: $12,000 to $18,000+
Solar carport structure: $2,500
Additional costs for labor, wiring, and interconnection may apply
While these are rough averages, there are several different factors that might influence the total cost of a solar panel carport. While solar carports in some areas may be on par or more expensive than rooftop solar, they can be used for homes and commercial spaces that have:
Chimneys, vents, and gables
Limited rooftop space
Incorrect roof orientation
The Benefits Of Solar Carports
Despite their costs, however, residential and commercial solar panel carports provide a host of advantages over rooftop and ground-mounted PV systems.
1. Reduced Energy Expenses
Solar canopies represent an easy way to turn unused areas into mini power plants. Just as with rooftop solar installations, clients can generate their own clean electricity on-site instead of buying power from the utility company. As a result, solar carport owners benefit from monthly electricity savings – not to mention smaller carbon footprints.
With enough installed capacity, users could even sell excess solar energy back to their utility providers through incentive programs like net energy metering.
It is also easier for solar servicers to reach panels on carports, making it easy to perform the minimal maintenance panels may need during their lifespan.
2. More Efficient Use Of Space
Ground-mounted solar installations take up valuable real estate, with the space underneath not providing much benefit. Similarly, the average parking lot isn’t terribly productive (even when cars are parked there).
Solar carports offer the best of both worlds – allowing users to optimize limited real estate by transforming unproductive parking spots into renewable energy-generation machines.
3. Protection From The Elements
In addition to generating cheaper and cleaner electricity for their owners, solar carports also provide protection from the elements:
On the hottest days of the year, solar carports help shade vehicles, resulting in more comfortable commutes for their drivers
Solar carports provide protection from rain, sleet, and snow, helping to prolong the useful lifetimes of the vehicles underneath
Commercial and residential solar carports can be integrated with EV-charging solutions:
Homeowners enjoy peace of mind in knowing that their electric vehicles are charged with clean energy
Business owners who install solar carports with chargers give EV drivers another reason to walk through the door
5. More Power Generation
Although solar carports carry a higher price tag, they are easier to manipulate and optimize than traditional rooftop PV systems. It’s much easier to reorient a parking spot than it is to reposition an entire roof. And this allows installers to orient their clients’ carports in the optimal direction to maximize sun capture – and by extension, solar power generation, carbon offsets, and monthly savings.
Incentives For Solar Carport Installations
For residential carport installations, homeowners can qualify for the federal income tax credit, which could get them up to 30% off their installation through 2032. Some states also offer incentives, so be sure to read up on your areas of service so you can point clients in the right direction. For the 5kW carport system we outlined above, this could mean a savings of nearly $6,000 if the homeowner qualifies for the full tax credit.
Some commercial solar carport installations could qualify for the 30% tax credit, but most will not currently. We recommend checking out state and local incentives for businesses to understand what a commercial system could qualify for.
Is A Solar Panel Carport Right For Your Clients?
Solar carports aren’t for everyone. And your own clients may be better off with a conventional rooftop solar installation or ground mount solar panels, provided their home or business has sufficient space and the right orientation.
However, solar carports are an increasingly affordable option that delivers many important benefits. And with demand on the rise, adding solar carports to your renewable energy services is a great way to attract more business and future-proof your operations.
GreenLancer can help your business find the best sites for solar carport installation, provide client-ready proposals and drawings, navigate the solar permitting process, and get engineering seals of approval. Work with us to make your next project a breeze.