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.

Solar PV parking canopies offer the parking lot owner and the environment considerable value:

– Highly desirable shade for parked cars.

– Rain and snow protection

– Protection from hail damage

– Reduced UV exposure

– Reduced parking lot temperatures and heat island effect

– Low-cost renewable power generation

– Low power distribution and energy transmission cost for the utilities.

– Improved municipal energy independences

Lightweight Flexible Solar vs. Glass

Traditionally most solar carports use conventional heavy glass crystalline solar modules installed on rails over large heavy gauge structural steel building components requiring large support columns with deep concrete piers or large ballast blocks. Even carports designed and built using architectural metal panels require additional heavy gauge structural steel, railing and roof clamps, all adding weight and cost to the solar carport.

LeSoleil FLEX thin film modules offer the same high efficiency power output as standard crystalline modules while weighing less than 0.7 lb/sf vs the 3-5 lbs. /sf for crystalline modules. The lighter weight of the FLEX modules means less structural steel is required in the carport design, which means less cost and faster construction time. Solar carports constructed with the FLEX modules can use light-gauge roll-formed steel, which allows the support columns to be placed further apart, creating a more open design.

Good wind- and seismic-performance engineering is important to carport design.  With traditional glass modules, there is concern about the stresses of wind and seismic movement. In addition, purlins can sag when support columns are placed far apart, impacting glass module and rail attachment. Architectural metal panels with FLEX modules provide stiffer support surfaces, can span wider distances, and are engineered for good wind and seismic performance while using lighter structural support.

Installing Solar Modules onto Existing Carports

Many facility owners have existing carports without solar. Owners often want to retrofit these existing carports, only to realize that the original design and construction will not support the additional weight of convention crystalline modules. Until now, the only option was to tear down the existing carport structure and to design and rebuild the carport to support conventional solar.

LeSoleil FLEX flexible and lightweight thin-film solar modules can be installed over existing carports constructed with architectural metal panels and some square rib corrugated metal panels without affecting the current weight limitation design. On carports with non-compatible metal panel profiles, these metal panels can be removed and replaced with new architectural metal panels without having to modify the existing support structure at a cost lower than full replacement.  FLEX modules can be installed onsite, requiring fewer installers and equipment, speeding up both new construction and retrofit installations, all at a lower cost.

System Size - 1.5 KW
Company - iSun Energy

iSun Oasis Carport

Location - Qatar
Installation Size - 25 kW
Customer - Kahramaa Utility Co.
Installation - January 2017

Reference: Kahramaa Utility R & D Center

Location - Oakley, CA
Installation Size - 6.3kWp
Customer - Baja Construction
Installation - November 2015

Reference: Oakley Executive RV and Boat Storage

Location - Tifton, GA
Installation Size - 19 kWh
Customer - Giddens Construction
Installation - November 2015

Reference: US Geological Survey Field Office