Solar carports (also called solar parking canopies) are a fine example of practicality, offering shade and protection for vehicles while at the same time generating solar electricity. As businesses become more interested in installing solar carports on their properties, it’s not uncommon for them to have some confusion about the ins and outs of the technology. Let’s clear the air by answering some of the more frequently asked questions.
PowerFlex’s default solar carport design is value engineered and is the most cost-effective solution for customers. That said, we are always happy to incorporate additional features (or modify existing features) upon request, including:
At PowerFlex, we create renderings to show what a customer’s site will look like once the carport is complete. If line-of-sight is a concern, we can analyze what parts of the canopy will be seen from particular vantage points on or around the property.
Absolutely. Installing EV charging infrastructure while building the solar canopy will save money and simplify construction (compared to adding chargers later). Integrating EV charging into a solar canopy project can save almost 40% on your installation and reduce the overall project duration by 30%. Project efficiencies include:
But what if you’re unsure about installing EV chargers right now? Our “make ready” installation option prepares your site for EV charging implementation in the future and decreases your eventual costs by 30%. You can read more about the benefits of installing a carport with EV chargers in this blog post: Why It’s Smart to Combine Solar Parking Canopies With EV Charging Stations.
Solar carports offer shade on extremely sunny and hot days and prevent the cars and drivers below from overheating. But what about when the weather is less than perfect? While it’s important to note that no solar carport is 100% weatherproof, the structures have weather-resistant features that hold up against rain and snow. Carports built with an impermeable surface will keep water from entering the canopy between solar modules. PowerFlex’s carports can also include gutters and downspouts to control water flow as well as snow guards (where appropriate) to prevent mounds of collected snow from falling off the structure. The solar panels themselves are designed to withstand heavy winds and hail impact. Panels are made from tempered glass for strength, and some panels incorporate two layers of glass into the front and back for extra durability.
Some electrical equipment will fit onto carport columns; the rest typically sits in a protected area. Smaller electrical components can be mounted directly onto carport supports, whereas larger pieces of equipment (such as switchboards, transformers, and utility metering cabinets) are placed at ground level in an area protected from people and vehicles.
During solar canopy installation, there will be changes to traffic flow, existing lighting, and parking spaces. A few parking spots might be lost to structural columns and electrical equipment, however, most changes are minimal or temporary. While the canopy is under construction, portions of the parking lot are fenced off for equipment, materials, and contractor parking. This staging area could be around 15–25% of the lot and will move throughout construction. Existing light towers that conflict with the solar carport installation will be removed, but LED under-lighting can be installed to keep things bright. PowerFlex works with customers to select the best type of light fixtures and will determine how many are needed and where to install them. Engineers analyze the traffic patterns to ensure a safe traffic flow during and after carport installation. Reflective tape and traffic arrows can be added to protect drivers and the solar canopy structure.
Yes, the power must be turned off at least once to connect the solar carport. There will be a power shutdown of about 4–12 hours before interconnecting the solar canopy to the electrical system. PowerFlex’s project management team coordinates with the customer to schedule the exact date and time of any shutdowns in order to minimize business disruptions. Using a generator to temporarily power critical loads may be an option during a planned outage.
Solar carports are highly complex; partnering with a developer who has onsite execution experience is critical to project success. PowerFlex boats 70 megawatts of solar parking canopies either built or under development. Our teams work with yours to create a turnkey solution that ensures project returns and lifetime value. As the second-largest installer of commercial rooftop solar in America, we’ve partnered with hundreds of businesses and organizations to achieve their energy and sustainability goals. Contact us to learn how we can help with your solar carport project.