Locating PV panels on carports is becoming a key market segment to track across the US, and offers significant opportunities for module suppliers and systems integrators. However, a common view held by some PV carport developers is that every PV canopy can be classified as a ‘carport’.
Carports are used in a variety of ways and come in many shapes and sizes, but essentially fulfill the same basic function. Carports are ideally suited for PV deployment, providing (often) extensive flat areas with direct sunlight. PV carports can occupy areas already in use, thereby maximizing any existing space constraints.
Indeed, combining PV and carports offers various space-constrained advantages, and can be applied within a variety of applications including:
- Parking lots: a parking lot is ideal for carports with PV. They allow full capacity operation of the PV modules while protecting cars from the elements.
- Farms: farmers are also discovering that canopies with PV are ideal as tractor/plough-ports and as storage for hay-making equipment and produce.
- Detention centers and schools: in the last few years, detention centers and schools have commissioned carports with PV as bus-ports. Solar canopies can also cover walkways, playgrounds and meeting areas.
Furthermore, applications are no longer limited to just small-scale PV deployment. For example, Rutgers University in New Jersey is planning a new carport covering 32 acres, with an output of 8MW. Indeed, this investment – at no cost to the University – is not the only attraction of this project. The carport also holds light fixtures and security cameras beneath the canopies to improve nighttime safety, as well as providing shelter from sun, rain and snow.
Another case involves the Hemet Unified School District in Riverside, California, which recently completed 17 systems of PV-based canopies at its elementary, middle and high schools. The projects total 4.4MW and are projected to save the district approximately $300,000 annually in utility costs.
PV carports can also be utilized in space-constrained locations. Here, single or dual tracking systems can be employed successfully. For example, several companies are choosing this option in car dealerships across the US. The introduction of electric car charging stations is providing an excellent match with PV carports.
Therefore, carports are offering a wide range of solutions. They are not only aesthetically appealing but satisfy specific niches within the market. And, as such, this application type is now becoming a key segment for all PV suppliers to target across the US. The United States Deal Tracker currently lists over 450 projects, accounting for more than 500 MW, which involve carports or canopy installations.