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What is a Solar Parking Canopy?

Photograph of a solar parking canopy with cars underneath

A solar parking canopy is an innovative structure that blends the functionality of parking shelters with the sustainability of solar energy. These canopies are equipped with solar panels installed on their roofs, harnessing the sun's power to generate clean, renewable energy. Not only do they provide shade and protection for vehicles against the elements, but they also contribute to reducing carbon footprints by producing electricity on-site. As businesses and organizations seek more sustainable solutions, solar parking canopies are increasingly becoming a popular choice for enhancing both environmental impact and energy efficiency. In this guide, we will examine solar parking canopies and offer advice on how commercial property owners can begin the process of installing these beneficial structures on their underutilized parking lots.

What is a Solar Parking Canopy?

A solar parking canopy is a type of solar canopy that is built to provide shade for parked cars while also generating renewable energy through solar panels on the roof of the structure. They are intentionally designed to allow functional use of the space for parked cars underneath the solar panels. Solar parking canopies not only harness solar power but also provide protection for vehicles, reducing the urban heat island effect and sheltering them from weather elements.  This innovative approach contributes to sustainable energy solutions and enhances the functionality of existing infrastructure.

How High are Solar Parking Canopies?

Solar parking canopies typically stand 12-15 feet tall. Designing an effective solar canopy requires balancing installation costs, available space, and potential electricity generation. Although larger carports have higher total installation costs, they benefit from a lower cost per watt due to fixed expenses that remain constant regardless of system size. The solar carport's clearance must be sufficient for vehicles and equipment to pass underneath freely. However, excessive height can unnecessarily inflate project costs.

Benefits of Solar Parking Canopies

Installing a solar parking canopy has numerous benefits, some of which include:

  • Generates Clean Energy: By utilizing the power of the sun, solar parking canopies produce clean solar energy without emitting harmful pollutants or greenhouse gases.

  • Reduces Energy Costs: The electricity generated by solar panels can be used to offset the electricity consumption of the building where the canopy is installed. This results in lower energy bills and potential savings for the property owner.

  • Provides Shade: Solar parking canopies provide shade for parked cars, reducing the heat buildup inside vehicles and making them more comfortable to enter on hot days.

  • Protects Vehicles: The solar parking canopy also provides protection from weather elements like rain, snow, and hail, which can damage vehicles if left exposed.

  • Contributes to Sustainable Development: By utilizing renewable energy sources and reducing the dependence on fossil fuels, solar parking canopies contribute to sustainable development goals of decarbonization and promoting environmental sustainability.

  • Generate Revenue: Business owners who install commercial solar carports with EV chargers can create a new revenue stream and offer an additional amenity to customers.

Disadvantages of Solar Parking Canopies

Although there are many benefits of solar parking canopies, there are also a few potential disadvantages to be aware of:

  • Building Permits: In some cases, special building permits may be required to construct a solar canopy, which can make the process of installing a parking solar canopy longer.

  • Installation Costs: The initial cost of installing a solar parking canopy can be quite high, including expenses for materials, labor, and potential alterations to existing infrastructure. Installing solar panels above a parking space costs several times more than installing one on the ground or on a rooftop because of the need to build the supporting infrastructure.

  • Maintenance: Regular maintenance is required to keep the solar panels and the overall structure in optimal condition. This can include cleaning the panels, checking electrical connections, and ensuring the integrity of the canopy.

  • Space Requirements: Solar parking canopies require sufficient space to be effective, which may not be available in all locations. This can limit their feasibility in densely populated or space-constrained urban areas. For this reason, solar parking canopies on commercial properties are especially appealing.

  • Weather Dependency: The effectiveness of solar panels is dependent on weather conditions. In areas with frequent cloud cover or limited sunlight, the energy generation may not be as high as anticipated.

  • Visual Impact: Some individuals may perceive solar canopies as visually unappealing or intrusive, potentially affecting the aesthetics of the location where they are installed.

Why is it Smart to Put Solar Canopies on Parking Lots?

Overall, placing solar canopies on large parking lots makes efficient use of land that is already cleared, produces electricity close to those who need it, protects cars, and can produce additional revenue for the parking lot owner. The main appeal of parking lots and rooftops for producing solar energy is that they are abundant, close to customers, largely untapped for solar power generation, and on land that’s already been stripped of much of its biological value.  Solar farms are usually built on undeveloped land, a rapidly diminishing resource that is increasingly needed for various essential services. These include growing food, providing wildlife habitats, storing and purifying water, preventing erosion, and sequestering carbon. As the availability of undeveloped land shrinks, the pressure to balance these critical functions intensifies.

Solar parking canopies offer a multifaceted solution by harnessing solar energy, providing vehicle protection, and contributing to environmental sustainability. While there are considerations such as installation costs and space requirements, the benefits often outweigh the drawbacks, making them a viable and forward-thinking option for many commercial property settings. As technology advances and the push for sustainable practices grows, the adoption of solar parking canopies is likely to increase, further solidifying their role in the future of energy and infrastructure.

Commercial and government property owners can invest in solar parking canopies or lease their parking lots for solar canopies, showcasing their commitment to sustainability while producing clean energy and revenue. List your properties (land, rooftops, parking lots) for lease for free on LandGate’s marketplace to connect with solar energy developers today:

Looking for more data to help you analyze your commercial properties’ (rooftops, parking lots) best sites for renewable energy production? Book a call with the LandGate team to learn more about our data solutions for commercial property owners:


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