Solar Carport Market
Supermarkets, gyms, hotels, airports, leisure centres, park and ride sites, factories and workplaces often have large, un-shaded carparks, where users park for anywhere between half an hour to half a day.
As the energy grid evolves to cater for the renewable market, greater decentralisation and smart metering dominate a data sharing revolution. 5G internet will open barriers for the way energy is transferred and smart hubs like solar carports will have an even greater role in supporting clean technologies.
Carports are yet to take off with few installations of scale being completed. However, as the number of EVs on the road continues to grow, parking facilities need to accommodate for the changes in the UK vehicle stock and provide greater charging facilities. In the UK, public charging infrastructure has not kept up with the growth in EV adoption and carports present an attractive solution, especially in built up urban areas where land availability is low.
Solar carports provide many benefits; here are just a few examples:
- generating renewable energy onsite,
- attracting custom via high visibility (like a traditional fuel station),
- promoting behavioural change towards sustainability,
- creating new revenue opportunities
- delivering a great user experience.
RenEngergy recently completed construction of a 608kWp solar carport on Insurance firm Aviva’s offices in Norwich. The site holds a 1,872-panel array generating approximately 542,000kWh of renewable energy every year.
Around 91% of energy is used by the company’s offices Broadlands Business Park, with any excess being exported to the national grid or to electric vehicle chargers once demand is there for instillation. The carport is part of Aviva’s commitment to climate change, supporting a 60% reduction in CO2e against a 2010 baseline.
Renewable energy developer Neoen has installed a 16.3 MW solar array on a car park in Corbas, France, covering 12.5 hectares and 4,600 industrial parking bays. The installation is the largest carport project built to date. The project is selling 19.5 GWh of electricity per year to the grid at a €0.102/kWh with a feed-in-tariff set by the French government.
Generation costs for the carport are around 50% higher than ground mounted PV but the difference is largely offset by savings on electricity transmission rates. Currently there is no on-site demand for the 16.3 MW of power being produced on the carport but with a greater roll-out of electric vehicles, this situation is very likely to change.
Supplied by SolarWorld AG, Montpellier Airport in the south of France houses 16,000 modules on structures spanning 1,800 parking spaces. n order to ensure air traffic safety, the module surfaces could not reflect sunlight. To achieve this, the manufacturer changed the entire lamination process to equip the modules with thicker, non-reflective glass.
With a rated 4.5MWp of power, the solar carport is expected to produce an average annual yield of 6.2 million kWh. Contributing a substantial percentage of the airport’s total electricity requirements. Airports, like many other transportation hubs, are keen to reduce both their air-side and customer-side carbon emissions.
Intel hosts the largest onsite corporate solar carports in the United States, with its Ocotillo campus in Chandler and Folsom campus in California. Both projects have been verified as the top two by the Solar Energy Industries producing the equivalent electricity of nearly 1,000 homes over a year.
The 7.7MW Ocotillo solar project covers 3,200 spots of employee shaded parking for the adjoining manufacturing and support buildings and generates 13 million kWh of power Folsom generates 6.5MW of solar energy covering 2,500 employee parking spaces and 16 electric vehicle charging stations. The carport brings the Intel campus’ overall solar output to 8.7MW. At peak capacity, the solar systems generate more than 50% of the campus’ energy usage.
Carports present a diverse opportunity in that they can be suited to several markets. They can be standalone or embedded into other structures such as on-top multi-storey carparks or retrofitted to existing land-areas. For many in urban or suburban areas, their addition makes economic sense as they do not change the use of the land on which they are installed on, unlike ground mounted solar which in some parts of the countryside is already meeting opposition as feed-in-tariff subsidies dry up.
Carports also create more value for the parking lot users as the sheltered parking spaces and walkways provide protection from sun, rain, wind ice or snow. LED lighting and CCTV cameras improve safety and security while their presence has potential to improve the aesthetics of an area without disturbing its functionality acting as a huge statement piece for a community.
Their modularity allows them to be refined to suit the specific needs of an area. Staggered expansion improves the economic case by managing supply with demand as EV numbers increase. Rare branding or marketing opportunities are also created which can help local businesses or promote environmental awareness.
As the government seeks to include more renewable sources into the energy mix, solving problems associated with intermittent generation will become more imperative due to the inflexibility of the UK’s electricity distribution network. Low carbon solutions which balance electricity supply and demand are required to help the sector transition away from carbon intensive sources.
Multifunctional solar car parks can be part of this solution as they fit in a unique segment of the energy sphere as both energy consumers and producers. Coupling battery units with solar PV and connecting such elements to the grid creates a demand side response service to the electricity grid.
Smart chargers and metering can help monitor and manage energy drawn by the carpark and neighbouring buildings and help provide additional grid balancing services. These multifunctional services futureproof an area saving utilities and councils expensive grid upgrade costs accelerating the regions transition away from fossil fuels.
Author: Ajeet Panesar, Sustainable Infrastructure Specialist, Solisco