The Slow Growth of Solar Carports

Placing solar panels over parking lots has multiple benefits, but higher costs have prevented their widespread adoption in U.S. cities.

2 minute read

January 6, 2023, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Overhead view of parking lot with solar panel canopies over parking spots and red car driving in

Bilanol / Solar carport

“We need to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of global warming. And, as extreme weather becomes more common, shade and shelter from downpours would be a welcome development for drivers,” writes Andrew Block for CNET. So why isn’t every outdoor parking space covered by solar panels?

Parking lot solar is becoming more common in some parts of the United States like the Southwest, but there are some challenges in retrofitting existing parking lots with solar canopies. According to Tim Powers of Inovateus Solar, “A carport is roughly 40% more expensive compared to a ground mount system.” But carports provide an extra service and can help institutions and businesses with large parking lots lower their carbon footprint. At Michigan State University, 5 percent of campus energy consumption is powered by parking lot solar panels. And it made use of existing development, preserving existing farmland. “Michigan State's installation kept 45 acres of agricultural land in production, a fact Michigan State called out in promoting one of the several awards it won for the array.”

Carport solar could also power electric vehicles, industry experts add. For example, “An average Walmart parking lot could support about 100 electric vehicle chargers if covered in solar panels, Pearce's research found.” Ultimately, while carport solar installations aren’t the most cost-effective way to install solar, they can be a useful solution where land is scarce. Last year, France passed a law requiring solar panels over most parking lots in the country by 2028.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023 in CNET

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