Whether you’re looking to maximize your parking lot, make a visible commitment to sustainability, or take advantage of local clean energy incentives, your carport options are as varied as the reasons for going solar.
Businesses and institutions across the country are increasingly choosing solar canopies to reap the benefits of renewable energy. Before investing in a carport structure, it’s important to determine how much your budget will influence design decisions. For some, cost is a big driver of carport decision making, but others are more motivated by aesthetics. The desired energy output of the system and parking row coverage should also be considered when defining what you’d like to get out of your solar canopies.
Ultimately, your preferences and needs will determine how your structure looks and how much it will cost. Factors that can influence the cost of your solar canopy include the following:
As with any solar mounting structure, it’s important to assess the land where the system will be constructed. Having a thorough assessment of the parking lot and the underground conditions where a solar canopy will be built is well worth the cost, as it can save considerable time and money in the long run by preventing over-engineering or under-planning.
Most canopy decisions relate either to cost or aesthetics, depending on a customer’s needs and preferences. When it comes to choosing a solar canopy structure type, many assess the cost per watt or cost per module rather than the overall cost of the structure itself. In this case, designing an efficient carport structure relates to maximizing the size of the system with the least amount of structure.
For customers primarily concerned with cost, T-structures are generally the most cost-efficient, as they use the least amount of steel and materials. However, there are times when a more costly structure is required or even desired. The trussed RBI Solar CP-P carport structure, for example, is more cost efficient in northern climates due to its ability to accommodate heavier snow loads. If aesthetics is the main driver of canopy design decisions, some customers are simply willing to pay more for a trussed structure.
RBI Solar CP-T cost-effective carport structure
RBI Solar CP-P aesthetic carport structure
Solar canopies can have at-grade or raised pier foundations depending on the customer’s preferences. At-grade foundations are typically the least costly option and maximize parking lot functionality. Raised pier foundations are considered a premium option and can provide an extra level of protection for the column.
Raised pier foundation
The length and width of your solar canopy are other cost influencers. A wider structure is able to support more PV modules and thus allows for more kilowatts of PV per foundation. A longer structure is also more efficient than a shorter one because it allows you to minimize the number of foundations. This is particularly important for customers prioritizing cost-effectiveness, as foundations are one of the main drivers of cost. Your required output for the solar canopies will affect its coverage over the parking spaces below, and ultimately play a role in overall cost-effectiveness.
For most, aligning foundations with the parking stripes is a common preference, as this type of placement has the least impact on parking. However, RBI Solar is able to span beyond these constraints for buyers looking for the most economical structure.
A 7° tilt angle is considered standard for a solar carport. Canopies can be designed with tilt angles greater than 7°, but this requires more structural support, thus increasing costs. In some cases, higher tilt angles will allow for better self-cleaning of the modules as rainwater runs off the structure.
At RBI Solar, a 20-year structural warranty is standard for all solar carports. For owners and financiers looking to further protect their investment, additional warranty terms can be purchased.
While not a necessary part of your solar carport, add-ons can enhance the look of the canopy and improve its functionality.
Snow guards can be added to help prevent the avalanching or sudden release of falling snow. Decking and gutters, a water management option, are particularly suitable for rainy regions.
Your solar canopies can also be powder coated or e-coated to suit your aesthetic preferences.
This solar canopy was coated to match the school’s colors.
Labor also factors in to the overall cost of your solar carport. Labor wages and union rates vary by location. Phasing the installation process can help keep labor costs down by maintaining an efficient work schedule and avoiding down time.
The cost of materials is dependent on several factors. Structure type affects how much steel is required to build the mounting system. Generally, T-structures are the most cost-effective because they require the least amount of materials. Your solar racking manufacturer’s relationship with steel providers can be a cost-reducing benefit, as consistent bulk purchasers can get steel at discounted rates.