The growing emphasis on corporate social responsibility has driven more businesses to seek bolder renewable energy solutions to target environmental goals. Our MD, Huon, recently participated in the Smart Energy Conference panel discussion where he raised concerns about the feasibility of corporate net-zero targets by 2030.
One solution in particular that has emerged as an innovative approach among our corporate client base is solar car shades - alternatively known as solar carports, solar canopies, or solar car parks.
In this blog, we will be exploring why solar car shades are a smart investment and how you can get started, from permit planning to selecting the perfect site location.
What is a Solar Car Shade?
Simply put, solar car shades are metal structures with solar panels installed as a roof. In contrast to traditional shade cloth or roofing materials, solar car shades incorporate solar panels as the roof on a metal structure installed within the car park.
This integration of solar technology allows for the generation of electricity while simultaneously offering shade for parked vehicles. The generated electricity is then seamlessly integrated into the facility's electrical system via underground cables, ensuring a smooth transfer of power from the solar panels to the business.
The Benefits of Solar Car Shade
Solar car shades can offer many benefits - to business owners, facility managers, car park users and the environment in general.
For the building owners benefits include; lower energy bills, reduced grid dependency, improved property value, and additional revenue streams with premium parking rates and EV charging making them a compelling investment.
For facility managers, reduced operational and maintenance costs make it a practical and cost-effective solution. Solar panels as a roofing material are more durable and require less maintenance than traditional shade materials, commonly made of polyethene cloth.
For car park users, solar car shades provide improved amenities and protection from the element, such as improved security with CCTV installed, lighting and audio systems, signage, and EV charging.
Of course, the benefits of solar car shades extend beyond just financial measures. By powering their facilities with solar energy, businesses can reduce their grid dependency and reduce their CO2 emissions. This, consequently, sends a clear message to customers, employees, and stakeholders of their commitment to sustainable practices and signals they are a market leader.
The Average Lifespan of Solar Car Shade
Maintenance plays a vital role in maximizing the lifespan of solar car shades. On average, these structures have a lifespan of 25 years, given proper maintenance. The self-cleaning properties of solar panels installed at a tilt of more than 10 degrees make them less susceptible to accumulating dirt and debris. However, it is recommended to conduct annual electrical maintenance and inspection to ensure the system's overall performance and address any potential issues.
Is Solar Car Shade Right for Your Business?
But, what factors should you keep in mind when considering a solar car shade for your commercial property? Here are some top considerations to help you make an informed decision
- Carpark layout - is your car park designed in the most efficient way? Shade structure should be designed with various vehicle types in mind, such as heavy trucks with large turning cycles, as well as safety regulations that enable ambulances, delivery trucks, and fire trucks to access the area.
- Obstructions - Trees and adjacent buildings can cause shade, which will lower the system's generation. It is essential to assess the presence of such obstructions and, if necessary, prune or remove trees that encroach upon the car park to maximize the system's efficiency.
- Ground conditions - soil quality and the presence of underground services within the car park may influence the installation of footings for the solar car shade. Proper investigation and geotechnical analysis are recommended to ensure a solid foundation for the structure.
- Permit planning - generally, a Development Application (DA) is needed, but in some cases, the installation can be carried out under a Complying Development Certificate (CDC). It's also important to consider the impact on neighbouring properties and address any concerns they might have.
Debunking Common Misconceptions
Despite the numerous benefits and advancements in solar car shade technology, there are still several misconceptions that we’ve heard when chatting with clients. Below is the top frequently posed queries we get when discussing solar car shades:
- Solar car shades are ugly - the design of solar car shades has undergone significant improvements, embracing sleek and modern aesthetics that seamlessly blend with the overall car park environment. By incorporating bifacial panels, their appearance can be further enhanced, making them visually appealing and improving the car park design. Most car shade manufacturers offer cladding or painting to soften the steel structure, creating a more modern aesthetic.
- Solar car shades are expensive - solar car shades are cost comparable to traditional shade cloth structures. The main benefit is that solar will generate savings which deliver an ROI. Alternatively, if budgets are tight, we offer three different financing options to choose from that can deliver cashflow positive results.
- I can install solar panels on my existing roof structure - unless the existing structure is engineered to withstand additional weight loading, it is not advisable to proceed without the approval of a structural engineer. Ensuring safety and structural integrity should always be a top priority when considering solar panel installations.
Where Do I Start?
If you're considering investing in a solar car shade, the initial process can seem overwhelming. At Smart Commercial Solar, we understand the importance of starting off on the right foot, which is why we offer a straightforward approach to help you determine whether a solar car shade is right for your business.
The first step is conducting a desktop feasibility study. This is a complimentary service that allows us to provide a preliminary quote based on your site's location and energy usage. During this study, we analyse factors such as the orientation of your car park and the amount of sunlight it receives, as well as the size and layout of the area.
If you're interested in moving forward, we'll then conduct a detailed feasibility study. This phase requires more in-depth analysis, including survey scans and a geotechnical study to determine the quality of the ground in your car park. We'll also provide detailed quotes and specifications from manufacturers to ensure we design the perfect solution for your needs.
If you're considering a solar car shade for your business, we can conduct a quick desktop feasibility study to help your business take the next step in sustainability and energy efficiency. Contact us today to get started!
You can also read the latest news and find out what’s happening in the commercial solar space at Smart Insights.