Solar carports are easier to install than a rooftop solar system because they don't sit on an existing roof. This makes them less expensive and even something that can be done as a do-it-yourself project, assuming you have the requisite skills and the aid of someone with an electrician's license.
Solar Carport or Solar Canopy?
"Solar carport” and “solar canopy” are often used interchangeably. Treehugger defines a solar canopy as a larger structure covering a commercial parking lot, service stations, public electric vehicle stations, and other large-scale operations. We use "solar carport" to describe a smaller-scale project covering only 1-3 vehicles, such as in a residential setting.
Benefits of a Solar Carport
Our cars sit idle for 90% of the time, and the places we put them occupy a great deal of space. In cities, about 40% of all paved areas are taken up by exposed parking areas. Paving over a portion of your property for no other reason than to park an idle vehicle is an investment that gets little in return. Solar carports provide a number of benefits, only some of them financial.
The most obvious advantage is the extra power solar carports provide. Whether in a business setting or a residential one, solar carports can be used to charge electric vehicles, or they can be used in combination with a battery backup system, increasing a home's resilience during power outages and allowing homeowners to reduce their electricity bills.
Especially in commercial zones, where real estate is costly, it makes sense for businesses to cover their parking spaces with solar carports. Not only do they provide shade and shelter for their customers' or employees' vehicles, but they generate electricity for their business, resulting in significant savings.
Businesses and industries can also reduce their carbon emissions or earn income by generating renewable energy credits (RECs), which can be sold to other industries seeking to offset their emissions.
Uncovered pavement contributes to the creation of heat islands, where daytime temperatures can be 1–7 degrees F higher than temperatures in surrounding areas. This exacerbates the dangers of rising global temperatures, especially for people more likely to suffer from heat exposure, such as the elderly, young children, and low-income communities.
Installing carports at residences or over commercial parking lots can reduce the stress of reflected heat by absorbing solar radiation and converting it into usable energy.
Better Sun Exposure
Being mounted on a frame means the solar panels on a carport can be angled to maximize their exposure to the sun, rather than have to comfort the pitch and angle of an existing roof. While an east-west facing roof may not have sufficient exposure to merit the cost of a solar installation, a free-standing carport can be installed at any angle. And depending on its height, a solar carport can take advantage of solar trackers, which allow the panels to follow the sun throughout the day.
Like other ground-mounted panels, a solar carport is more accessible and easier to maintain than a rooftop system. It is easier to clear snow or debris from them and to periodically wash them with water—without the need to climb on a sloped roof. Should a homeowner's roof need repair for any reason, there are no panels that need to be removed in order to make the repairs.