GreenBuddies

Solar carports: a modern way of utilising parking spaces

Solar carports: a modern way of utilising parking spaces

Carport

31.05.2023

Certainly, there is little need to extensively explain what a solar carport is. This contemporary solution, aimed at utilizing parking lots as a means to generate clean energy while effectively safeguarding vehicles, individuals, and potentially other technologies from inclement weather, is widely recognized among professionals and, to a great extent, the general public.

We have already discussed various technical solutions and methods for anchoring carports, so this topic is not the focus of today's discussion. What is of particular interest, however, is that many countries provide government support through subsidies or tax incentives for property owners who choose to invest in solar technology. In certain countries, owners of PV carports may also have the opportunity to sell excess energy back to the grid, generating additional income. When examining the situation in EU countries, it becomes evident that select nations like France, Germany, and Austria have implemented legislation to encourage the construction of PV carports, serving as role models for other EU members.

In Germany, a government program of the KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) offers financial support for the construction of PV carports. The program offers low-interest loans for individuals, companies, and local authorities wishing to invest in solar technologies, including PV carports. It is also possible to take advantage of tax credits for the construction of photovoltaic carports, which are available to individuals and companies in Germany.

In Austria, there is a similar program called 'Klimafonds-Förderaktion', which offers financial support for the construction of photovoltaic carports and other renewable energy sources. The program is available to individuals, companies, and municipalities and offers grants and loans at low interest rates.

Both programs aim to encourage the construction of photovoltaic carports and other solar technologies, thereby contributing to environmental protection and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It should be stressed that support for photovoltaic carports may vary depending on the specific conditions and the size of the investment, so it is important to consult local authorities or renewable energy experts about the conditions.

The construction of a solar carport system is a real construction project that involves a number of activities in the preparation and permitting phases as well as in the implementation phase. Key ones include:

  • Preliminary engineering works: description of necessary modifications in terms of parking, relocation of networks or new networks, green areas, road modifications, relation of the construction project to the existing zoning plan, concept of traffic solution, electrical power supply and connection agreement, subsidy agenda, etc.
  • Construction of foundations: the carport must be placed on a solid foundation structure. Usually, this is a large concrete slab that is strong enough for the columns to be fixed. Sometimes foundations are placed on pylons that are hammered or drilled into the ground and, often reinforced with a concrete bed.
  • Installation of struts: the struts must be fixed to the foundation slab. Usually, metal or laminated timber columns are used.
  • Installation of beams: beams are placed between the columns and serve as support for the solar panels.
  • Electrical work: the solar panels must be connected to an inverter that transforms the DC current from the panels into AC current usable by the investor. The cables must be adequately sized and connected to the existing electrical system.
  • Civil Works: if necessary, trenches may be dug for wiring, interconnection with the client's existing electrical system, or rainwater drainage.
  • Landscaping: After installation is complete, landscaping may be required, such as restoration of original parking areas, grassed areas around the carport, or planting of trees and shrubs.

Naturally, this work requires specialist knowledge and experience, so it is recommended that it be carried out by personnel experienced in the construction of PV carports.

And what is the typical process that Greenbuddies follow when interested in preparing and implementing a solar carport project? Let's simplistically generalize it (although, of course, each project is unique to some degree):

  • Receipt of the investor's inquiry, gathering of input data (location, required scale, local conditions, existing infrastructure, car park plans, nature of the application of the electricity generated in the future by the plant (self-consumption, storage, overflows to the grid, etc.), status of existing permits, preferred design of the above-ground structure, requirement for charging stations or battery storage, drainage system design, etc),
  • Greenbuddies Charging (GBCh) then prepares, in cooperation with the suppliers of the carport structure and solar components, a professional estimate of the total cost of the specific solution broken down into key items, i.e., preparation of a techno-economic study, preparation of documents and procurement of missing permits or subsidies, and the actual implementation (site set-up, mechanical construction, design of the foundations and anchoring of the carport, excavation and wiring, prices of individual material components, etc.).
  • Discussion with the client as to whether the amount of the investment corresponds to their expectations; if so: 
  • We contract the engineering phase with the client and conclude a contract for future work
  • at this point, the client's paid phase of providing detailed engineering services begins: preparation of a technical and economic study; more precise calculation of the statics and dimensions of the above-ground structure based on the geological tests of the subsoil; more detailed design of the technical solution of the PV plant itself; possibly charging stations and battery storage; preparation of all documents for the construction procedure; power output of the future PV plant; traffic and fire safety solutions; subsidies; etc.
  • initiation of the construction procedure on behalf of the investor
  • preparation of detailed implementation documentation for the construction and the PV plant
  • on the basis of the detailed documentation and the drawings, the final price of the solution can be determined
  • signing of the work contract with the usual formalities (subject of performance, rights and obligations of both parties, price and payment terms, guarantees, etc.)
  • the actual implementation

The key to success, and frankly, the area that our customers and subsequently us at Greenbuddies struggle with the most, is the availability and completeness of existing investor documentation. We are often faced with the daunting task of retrieving missing or incomplete documentation from the archives of the relevant building authority. The second important success factor is good communication between the investor and the contractor. Only if both parties are pulling the same rope and have a common goal can all the known and unexpected pitfalls of the work be dealt with.

Finally, it remains to stress out that we also carry out the implementation of solar carport systems abroad, where we usually cooperate with local specialist companies in the preparatory phase.

So if you are thinking about a solar carport for your car park or in front of your production or logistics area, do not hesitate to contact us!

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