Companies Going Green With Solar Carports

Since we previously wrote about solar carports in this blog, there has been a serious increase in interest in this technology. The abundant amount of free and clean energy generated by these carports has proven to be essential to the development of electric cars and hybrids. Recently, a slew of attention has been heaped onto companies supporting the construction of these energy-generating carports all over the country and the world.

This article talks about the adoption of solar carports at Kyocera Corporation in Japan, which was fitted with solar carports by Envision Solar, a nationwide developer of these types of carports. On the other side of the globe, the New York Institute of Technology just received an award for adding solar carports to their campuses all over New York, staring with Central Islip campus and continuing with Old Westbury campus as well. According to the article, these types of photovoltaic panel-covered carports could be commercially successful on a large-scale, national and international level, particularly as car technology moves towards fully-electric driven vehicles. The success of other companies’ adoption of solar carports has driven a massive increase in these types of projects – one example is seen at Cathay Bank in California, who just signed a large contract with PermaCity Solar to develop carports for its corporate center.

Green technology is a hot topic and solar carports are part of the new school of sustainable energy systems. As electric cars begin to be developed and introduced to the world, there will be a need for massive sustainable energy development – the reliance on coal and other emissive energy sources will need to change to continue the progress of green technology represented by electric powered cars. Solar carports will prove to be an excellent source of this kind of energy.

First Smart Park Solar Carport Added in U.S.

How many different types of solar carports are on the market? Essentially, two types are available for towns and communities: One that supports photovoltaic panels and uses the energy to replace power in the electrical grid and other that does this and powers electric vehicles. Some solar carports are attached to a building, such as a school or government building, and the energy from the sun is used by the building. In recent news, another solar carport was added in Lancaster, California, by company Martifer Solar. This carport falls into the former category, as the energy absorbed by the carport will be used by the building behind for Lancaster, California’s transportation authority, Antelope Valley Transit Authority.

This particular solar carport is unique because of its size. Made by the company Smart Park, these solar carports are a 368kW system that covers 35,000 square feet. When this carport system is in use, it is capable of covering 110 vehicles under multiple long metal carports. The system consists of 300 kW modules and a smaller roof mounted system. The cars, meanwhile, are shaded by these large metal carports during the workday.

As with many carports we’ve seen previously, this particular system was funded by a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Towns and cities across the country are looking for ways to incorporate environmentally-friendly sources of power into the electric grid, and a solar carport is considered to be one of the more logical options. The cars, shaded by the metal carports, receive protection during the day, while the format of these fixtures puts natural energy into the power grid. Although some systems can be costly to set up, the price becomes worth it within a few years, as the surrounding city or town saves on not having to generate power from a non-natural source.

Tax Dollars at Work: More Solar Carports in Federal Projects

So far, we’ve seen a few projects, on the state level, that involve federal stimulus dollars being used for alternative energy projects. These, from what we’ve seen, have been in the form of carports with photovoltaic panels attached to the roofs. While the carport makes a versatile structure in these cases, the energy from the photovoltaic panels powers the adjacent buildings and, in some cases, electric cars below. In recent news, more developments have been made for this type of alternative energy use with carports. This time, SunWize Commercial Power Systems will be working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to install photovoltaic panels on carports and on roofs of hospitals.

The full plan, as outlined in more detail in the link above, involves 1.1 megawatt systems in ten hospitals, with the photovoltaic panels divided between roofs and carports. This will be done with a $7.8 million federal contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs for hospitals ranging from East Coast locations all the way to Pago Pago in American Samoa. The photovoltaic systems in these cases will range from 50 kilowatts, presumably on a carport, to 400 kilowatt systems on top of hospitals. The project, while similar to those we’ve seen with money from the federal stimulus, is part of a government effort to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions three percent each year up to 2015.

Previously, we saw similar projects involving solar carports that, financially, didn’t make sense. In the case of the last post, about the solar carport for a police station near Columbus, OH, the total project cost $300,000 for one building and would only power about 15 to 20 percent of the building. While the cost of each project in this case is about $780,000 is you divide the amount evenly between hospitals, the solar panel systems will be far more extensive and, presumably, will be a larger part of each hospital’s energy.

Can a Solar Carport Cost Too Much?

We’ve seen on several occasions solar carports being installed by businesses and at schools. While all of these projects have practicality, is it possible for one to cost too much? One incentive for adding such structures – aside from the dual practicality – has been the federal stimulus allotted to each state, with alternative energy projects being some of the uses for this money. As we saw in New Jersey at Richard Stockton College, part of that state’s money went to such a project which not only added a solar carport to power part of the school but also for students to experiment with using electric cars powered by said carports. Such a project then allows for an immediate and logical application and, additionally, experimentation for the future.

So, then, is it possible for such a project not to be practical or to cost too much? In Bexley, a city near Columbus, OH, the answer might be, “Yes.” The project involving solar carports has plans for adding four carports to the parking lot of police station to support photovoltaic panels, which will serve as 15 to 20 percent of the police station’s energy. But, while this project will cost over $300,000, the city will save only $75,000 over 20 years from powering the police station. Does this seem like a wise investment or incorporation of solar power?

Carports have been used in such projects for their versatility. Not only do the structures provide shade far cars in a parking lot but they can support solar panels and be angled in a few directions for the best possible location. Unfortunately, this project in Bexley doesn’t appear to have much financial payoff for the city. Although Ohio has 25 projects planned for alternative energy using the federal stimulus money, the city of Bexley is still deciding on the practicality of this one.

Electric Cars Used with Solar Carports on LI

Carports used for solar power have been in the news recently, especially in North America. The last post covered the largest solar carport, which is located at a New Jersey college, but most news items regarding these types of carports haven’t covered a combination we saw in England several months ago: solar carports used with electric cars. But a news item recently covers this combination at a school in Long Island experimenting with both solar carports and using electric cars with them. The school, the New York Institute of Technology, has designed the carports and has been using Toyota Prius cars with them.

The college, located in Old Westbury, created solar carports, according to the article, that can produce 33 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. With one carport per parking spot, charging an electric car in one of these spaces gives enough power for a 20 mile commute. The actual design of these particular carports, as implied by the article, involves one carport per space, not the large carport shelters seen in the last post at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Nevertheless, while students are in class, they can park and plug their cars into one of these spaces under a solar carport and charge up the car. While some students may drive more than 20 miles per day, they can charge the Prius cars at home using a large extension cords. As some students at the school are involved in a drive-share program, they’re encouraged to take the Prius cars from school to home and back again.

This solar carport is the first of its kind on Long Island. According to the article, it was funded by the LIPA and federal Department of Energy as an experiment but also an effort to attempt to replace traditional energy with solar and, with the electric cars, to reduce emissions on the island.

Solar Carport at NJ College

Where’s the largest carport located? Richard Stockton College of New Jersey apparently has the largest carport – metal or polyethylene, it’s not specified in the article — but the structure isn’t used only as a carport. Instead, like many similar green structures, this large carport is being used for solar power. As metal carports seem to be designed appropriately, angle and strength, to suppose photovoltaic panels, this structure keeps on being used in the United States and Great Britain in projects to incorporate more solar power. With its size, this carport uses 851.8 kilowatts of power and will save, in time, 1.2 megawatts of power.

Many companies and schools are finding ways to go green. This option often involves creating a solar powered carport to give power to a building. In the UK, company Romag, as we read earlier, created a similar model for general solar power for a power grid and to power electric cars. In New Jersey, this particular carport involved the first allocation of federal economic stimulus funding to the state. As the carport was funded by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the stimulus money seemed like a reasonable way to find a green energy project.

Carports, particularly metal carports, appear to be ideal for this task of incorporating solar power into areas that would automatically rely on a less environmentally-friendly form, be it nuclear, electric, or coal fuel. But this structure works two-fold: While the Richard Stockton College is able to use solar energy and reduce its carbon footprint, students at the school also get a parking space in the shade. Does this indicate that carports may be covering all parking lots in the future? Perhaps or maybe not, but all of that depends on how far businesses, schools, and communities, as well as individuals, go with experimenting with solar energy.

Solar Carports: Incorporating Solar Panels on Carports

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.