Talking about solar carports might elicit skepticism from some and yawns from others, but they make sense for a number of reasons.
To start with, parking in shade can reduce evaporative emissions, meaning that a hot gas tank may result in more evaporation of fuel. The amount that evaporates is not that much, but over a long period of time it might result in some fuel savings to park in shade. “If you let your car bake in the sun there’s going to be a greater amount of evaporative emissions that take place than if you park in the shade,” said Jim Kliesch, from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Most people don’t like getting into a very hot car on a summer day, because it is simply unpleasant and a hot steering wheel could be painful or cause some minor burning.
In terms of solar power, carports offer much unused surface area that is available for solar panel installation. In others words, no land needs to be identified and filled up with above ground solar panels, because in some areas there is plenty of space from car ports.
In states like California, where the solar potential is the best, solar carports have been somewhat popular. In other states, for various reasons, they have not been as common.
“California has been the bedrock of the solar carport industry, with non-residential penetration levels exceeding 30 percent in 2013. Outside of New Jersey and Arizona, however, solar carport penetration has been limited by relatively high ASPs and a lack of scale. Moving forward, we anticipate that state-specific incentives for carports in states like Massachusetts and Maryland, as well as favorable market conditions in Texas, North Carolina, and Hawaii, will broaden the appeal of solar carports and elevate these systems to the status of mainstream solution,” explained Greentech Media.
In California, some of the solar car port players have been Solar City, SunPower and SunEdison. For the whole U.S. the solar carport market has been estimated to have the potential to reach $843 million by 2016.
So, it’s not a huge market, but still is of some significance. On a side note, one of the appeals of solar carports is that they are located near a lot of foot traffic and near vehicle traffic. This fact means that they are bound to be very visible with some people, rather than being located far away from society, such as in a desert.
While this might seem like a trivial point, it might help keep solar front and center in the minds of the public. A key part of the clean energy story for decades has been its perception. That perception or ‘brand’ if you will, has encountered much resistance and steady criticism from industries and politicians that represent them, namely the fossil fuel folks.
If solar panels are on carports at the school, the shopping center and the church generating electricity, it’s kind of hard to argue that they don’t belong there, or are a fringe technology.
Image Credit: Andreas Horning