Greenbuddies Tips – December 2022

Greenbuddies install solar panels on the roofs of Budapest shopping centres

A total capacity of 7MWp is now being installed in Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Five locations of shopping centres are being covered with east-west roofing systems. Construction has already begun on three roofs and the work on the other two will begin in the new year.

The Greenbuddies team is delivering this project as a complete EPC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction) for our client. The project includes members from Greenbuddies’ team of professionals in engineering, procurement specialists, and the project management team. Our experienced site manager Gyorgyi Molnarová oversees the project team on-site.

Work in progress on the roof of a shopping centre in Hungary

With these projects, we had to solve a significant issue concerning the roofs’ low load limits, but we were able to overcome them by working with a supplier of lightweight, stable structures that didn’t require a lot of ballast. The most recent wind models guarantee this. In a wind tunnel, the structure is tested to confirm the calculations.

Even during the winter, the actualisation of the project continues, as the weather has been mild so far. The installed PV plants will be utilised to offset the shopping centres’ regular daily electricity usage and lower electricity expenses. Therefore, we are glad to be a part of this transition.

Solar carports in practice

We are seeing a steadily growing interest in solar carports from customers in a wide range of sectors. The most frequent customers are those with parking areas where, for technical or economic reasons, it is not possible to simply offer a rooftop installation of solar panels. At one end of the spectrum, for example, there may be a private bakery or hotel looking for a solution for 30 parking spaces, while at the other end there may be a global supplier of components to the automotive industry.

Carports are typically made of steel, aluminium, wood, or a combination of these materials and are built on outdoor areas. For domestic use, this can be the yard or garden of a family home; for professional use, it is most often the car park of hotels, production or logistics halls, shopping centres, or large car parks at highways, airports, sports stadiums, and so on. Carports have recently been built mainly as so-called solar carports. This means that photovoltaic panels are laid on the roof of the carport, and the whole system hides the additional infrastructure needed to generate green electricity from solar energy.

Greenbuddies carport project in Austria

This gives a whole new dimension to the use of these open spaces, which have previously only been used for parking. In addition to generating the necessary renewable energy, the carport also provides parked vehicles and their occupants with protection from the elements, be it rain, hail, or the sun’s rays, which can make the interior of a car very hot. In the winter, every driver will appreciate not having to laboriously scrape frozen windows under the shelter.

Our installation teams have quite extensive experience in installing carports or similar structures from several European countries. To name just two examples, we have carried out a very interesting installation for our French customer on a high-rise building in Brussels, and another installation of which we at GreenBuddies are suitably proud is the largest project of its kind in Austria, in the state of Burgenland.

When we talk about carports, it is important to remember that this is a building in the true sense of the word, which naturally also places high demands on the safety and stability of the structures. The actual implementation is therefore preceded by a series of preparatory technical tasks, which our company provides: from the basic design of the carport through calculations to the preparation of a structural study based on the geographical location of the site and the associated amount of rain and snowfall, the size of the structure, the roof pitch, etc.

Carport construction and anchoring process

A separate chapter describes the technological solution for anchoring the above-ground structure to the ground. The starting point is to carry out a geological study of the subsoil, including pull-out tests on site. According to the results of this study, the designers will determine the optimum method for the foundations of the structures and their anchorage. That these are not trivial issues is demonstrated by another example from our implementation in Lutzmannsburg, where the above-ground structure sits on massive concrete blocks that we set on steel pylons extending 6 meters below ground. Of course, the technical solution is not always this demanding; in many cases, the structure is attached with bolts or rests on footings with smaller concrete foundations.

Although the use of shelters is primarily aimed at generating electricity from photovoltaic panels, with the development of electromobility, more and more investors are interested in the possibility of installing charging stations. This, of course, makes sense wherever an EV driver intends to park his or her car for at least an hour or more. In public spaces, there are often multiple chargers, which often optimise the system of drawing electricity from photovoltaics or the public grid using a so-called “dynamic power management system.” This system allocates the appropriate charging power according to the technical condition or degree of charge of the individual clients’ batteries or according to other parameters programmed at the operator’s request. Carport manufacturers are also responding to this trend by coming up with elegant solutions for integrating chargers into the columns of overhead structures, etc.

In the last year, we have seen a noticeable increase in interest in carports among both investors and providers of complete solutions for photovoltaics and electromobility. In addition to the above-mentioned logic of multiple uses of available space, legislation aimed at promoting the construction of photovoltaic installations and the development of electromobility is also newly applied. For example, in selected German federal states, standards are being drafted (or are already in the final stages of the legislative process) requiring shopping center parking areas above a certain size to be equipped with solar carports. The German example will surely soon be followed by other EU member states.

Meet our development team in the Netherlands

Greenbuddies Energy B.V. is our Dutch entity. The team of project developers are based in Eindhoven and led by Jos Schlangen. They keep themselves busy with greenfield developments across the Benelux. Launched in 2020, the entity has a broad pipeline of large (10MW+) solar projects under development. These projects are being developed alongside STEAG Solar Energy Solutions, our investor for the Benelux.  

A large part of the team in Eindhoven comes from Limburg, situated inthe south of the Netherlands. This is also a region that has yet to have seen a boost in the construction of solar energy, as the hilly landscape often makes permitting procedures more complex. Greenbuddies Energy has taken this on as an ideal opportunity since municipalities, even in the south, are bound by sustainability targets (i.e., a certain % of green energy consumption). With several team members conversing in the local dialects with landowners, we find that we are often given the nod over our ‘northerly’ competitors. This is one of the main reasons as to why a growing portion of our projects under development are located in Limburg. Additional advantages here include that the grid is not as congested as it is elsewhere in the Netherlands.  

However, the south also brings challenges. The main issue faced today is that municipalities are yet to formulate concise legislation allowing the permitting of large solar installations. This results in the fact that a lot of work goes into lobbying municipal councils to pass bills in favour of particular projects. Of course, this can only be done with projects that have been integrated to fit ideally in the landscape, as well as bring particular social advantages to inhabitants of surrounding areas. All this means that plenty of effort is being put into creating local connections and spending time getting to know the area surrounding a particular project. Only then can one develop with a keen eye on the ecology of the surroundings, as well as an open mind to suggestions being given by locals.  

As the images indicate, our team enjoys the challenge of finding new prospects and developing these into fully-fledged projects supplying green electricity to the national grid. Keep an eye out on the south of the Netherlands for a range of interesting solar developments in the coming years, in no small part due to the efforts being brought to the table by our dedicated Dutch development team.