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Solar Carports Using Conventional Solar Modules

Posted by Tom on 4/1/2013
As the owner of G-P LLC, I attend several solar and wind expositions each year, mostly in the USA and China. We have several solar contractors as customers, plus dozens I have met at the solar expos her in the USA, who are excited about solar carports and a major growth market for solar. I agree that solar carports should be a rapidly developing market, but I do not agree with the way some of our customers and competitors are selling to tens of thousands of customers a product that will later develop serious problems affecting the car and property owners.

Solar carports are not waterproof and cars are very expensive. How could a vehicle owner feel comfortable parking their car in a typical carport? It is great to keep the car out of the sun and even better that the parking lot is being used to create electricity and reduce our carbon footprint. With 99% of carport structures constructed out of carbon steel, corrosion will develop. No matter what everybody tells you, when it rains, or early morning temperature inversions cause condensation, a drop of water laden with red rust will form. When noticed by the proud car owner, that drop and the resulting stain will force them to move their vehicle. What does a responsible, caring property owner, such as a VA Hospital in Arizona with 2,000+ cars parked under solar carport structures (now in 2012) do with all those cars when it rains in 2022?

What does the VA Hospital do when it starts raining in 2022 with all those cars under solar metal structures? Will this responsible government facility hope none of the car owners complain about rust spots from drops of rain? The hospital staff will probably recommend that they do a complete inspection of the carport metal components and repair all signs of corrosion. Unfortunately, not all corrosion causing surfaces can be treated without major disassembly.

When you do the best for America and the planet by investing in solar carports, either as a perk for your employees or as a wise investment, you expect to get 25 years and hopefully more of positive revenue from your solar array. Having problems with car owners using the parking spaces is the last thing you would expect and want to deal with.

I know of three responsible choices for solar carport structures: 1st would be to make your structure entirely out of anodized or painted aluminum beams, etc. and all stainless steel fasteners and brackets. 2nd would be to install a conventional steel roof (typically used on low cost steel carports) and attach the solar modules with a roof top racking system. 3rd would be to use water tight solar modules. With customer help, I am hoping our engineers can develop better solar carport products, so I am looking forward to your comments.

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3 Comments

Jerry
Date: 4/4/2013
I agree that there is the potentual for a problem if it is not well thought in advance. If a good rust inhibitor is used or humidity is controlled, then a longer life may be possible.
THOMAS GLEASON
Date: 4/5/2013
THANK YOU JERRY... YOU MUST AGREE THAT THE DESIGN WILL BE MORE COMPLICATED IF USING CONVENTIONAL SOLAR PANELS AND STEEL FOR THE STRUCTURE AND THE RISK OF CORROSION IS 100%, JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE FAILURE. RIGHT... TOM
TOM
Date: 4/12/2013
I drive a pearl white Cadillac. Today,I got a car wash where two people spent about 20 minutes each detailing the car inside and out. When, I went to put my stuff back in the back of the SUV, I noticed a small crack in the paint on the rear bumper, about the size of a dime. I don't believe I am any different then most people,who would notice even a small stain/rust spot and try to figure out the cause. Yes, steel can be prepared to avoid early stages of corrosion especially if hot dip galvanized, but when holes are drilled and tapped and brackets welded, corrosion is just a couple years away. The problem with this source of corrosion is that it will be hidden by the fasteners and attached structures. I do a lot of traveling and in most cities, people live in apartment buildings from 3-20 stories tall. The owners install their own A/C units, usually mounted on brackets on outside wall of the buildings. Most of these apartments are very expensive and the building look beautiful when new, but after 2-3 years, the outside walls of the buildings will be dripping with red rust paint from the brackets, cement anchors, and fasteners, where carbon steel is used. Hopefully, in the USA, solar carport owners will design and plan the structures to eliminate these potential corrosion issues that people elsewhere in the world tend to ignore. Tom
Mike Sullivan
Date: 1/2/2015
I'm in Chicago. Is corrosion a bigger problem near the ocean/gulf? We don't have a big corrosion problem here that I am aware of.
Mike Sullivan
Date: 1/2/2015
When it comes to building design of any kind, all of the elements need to be considered. That includes elements that change as the time passes and as the environment becomes more hostile due to climate change. I can build a 2-car carport with sidewalls and a sloped roof. Close in one end and put a door on the other, its a garage. I had a design, years ago, for what we coined a "Smart Garage" with PV panels and a charging station. Wood framing, prefabricated wall and roof sections bolted together on site. You could get it with a deck on top and/or with PV. The sidewalls extend 24 ' above the roof and the PV array is suspended across the structure, sidewall to sidewall.

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