by Michael Gumm, published in North American Clean Energy Magazine, October 2015
In the United States, over 20% of the urban land area is dedicated to parking lots. Land in urban areas is becoming an increasingly expensive and a scarce resource. Private and municipal owners of parking lots are searching for better opportunities to make their parking facilities multi-functional and more productive.
The installation of solar (photovoltaic or PV) carports on both private- and public-owned parking lots provides a new and cost-effective opportunity for generating clean, renewable energy without consuming additional land resources. Solar PV carports can provide far more power generation area compared to the more limited rooftop surface commonly used for many solar installations.
Parking lots in general have more solar potential and less shading issues than rooftop solar and can be easier to install than rooftop solar installations and be less disruptive to the facility. Two additional advantages to mounting solar on carports versus roof-mounted solar arrays include no roof penetrations, which increase exposure to potential water leaks, and the ability to avoid additional roof inspection or engineering and repair costs regarding the age, service life and integrity of the building’s roof.