Over the past year, various news items in the United States and Europe have covered the use of carports for setting up solar energy sources. Some, like a recent news story about using solar carports in the school system for San Luis Obispo, CA involve attaching photovoltaic panels, or solar panels, to carports in school parking lots to generate solar energy for the school. But, in Britain, this similar solar carport design is more of a charging device for electric cars. This type of design would also have solar panels attached to carport structures. When an electric car parks under these structures, the car charges to have enough energy.
Regardless of whether the solar power is used for charging electric cars or for simply powering a school, the key here is the design of the carport. Although a polyethylene, or portable, carport is out of the question, using the design for metal carports is more practical. While metal or concrete carports have been in use for these solar carports, the roof of the structure needs to be large and strong enough to support multiple solar panels. While most carports have a peaked roof, a metal structure can still be used for these solar carports, as long as the roof is flat and angled.
But why carports, exactly? Why not simply attach the carports at an angle to the roof of a building? As seen in this article, the carports, solar panels or not, are being used as carports should: for shade and to protect the vehicles from sun and rain. Adding solar panels to a carport is simply a double functioning structure. On one hand, many carports in a parking lot can shade and protect several cars, and the surface area from the roofs of the carports can be used for supporting solar panels. The car-charging design used by some carports charges the cars in addition to the basic function of a carport.