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Growing market for solar canopies

An increasing number of organizations are reaping the benefits of photovoltaic power by turning to solar canopies and carports. According to NPD Solarbuzz, there are currently more than 450 solar carport and canopy installations in the United States, which combined have a capacity of more than 500 megawatts.

While such structures are currently not widespread, Urban Land Magazine reported last year that solar carports are set to become of the major trends in PV power systems as more organizations seek to better utilize parking lots and other available spaces. High profile examples includes installations at the Cincinnati Zoo, at the football stadium used by the NFL’s Washington Redskins and at the New Jersey headquarters of Dow Jones and Company.

“Locating PV panels on carports is becoming a key market segment to track across the [United States], and offers significant opportunities for module suppliers and systems integrators,” NPD Group analyst Christine Beadle wrote in an October 25 article.

The New York Times Green blog reported in 2010 that organizations can expect to achieve numerous benefits from solar carports. Mainly, the structures can provide a large amount of electricity in a way that maximizes available space. For example, a property may have far more parking lot space than available rooftop space, and unlike with a ground-mounted installation, the area being utilized for the solar project can continue to serve its initial function. Another additional benefit of a solar carport or canopy is that it can provide shading for large plots of land.

Diverse new uses for solar carport structures
While solar canopies are mostly applied over parking lots, NPD Solarbuzz reported that the structures are evolving in their size and usage. Beadle wrote that while most of the early projects were smaller in scale, increasingly the solar carport has become much larger. In addition, installers are placing canopies in a wider array of spaces besides over parking lots, including at school playgrounds and detention center walkways. Some farmers have even installed PV canopy structures on their property to cover tractors and produce.

“PV carports can also be utilized in space-constrained locations,” Beadle wrote. “Here, single or dual tracking systems can be employed successfully. For example, several companies are choosing this option in car dealerships across the U.S. 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.”

SunWize case study
Organizations looking to install a solar carport or solar canopy would be wise to turn to SunWize, which has extensive experience and can help property owners will all aspects of a PV project from design and permitting to installation and maintenance.

SunWize installed a 4.45-megawatt PV power system for the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, which is currently the largest solar carport in the United States. The structure includes more than 18,000 solar modules and covers seven acres of parking lot space, providing room for more than 1,600 motor vehicles. The installation is capable of producing more than 7 million kilowatt-hours of electricity on an annual basis, which is enough energy to power about 700 households a year.

“We applaud VA’s commitment to renewable energy, and are proud of the confidence shown in SunWize with its expansion of the system to become the largest carport PV system and hospital installation in the industry,” David Kaltsas, SunWize’s president and CEO, said in a September blog post.