Many people dream of “going off the grid”, to live a life less dependent upon bureaucracy and infrastructure. Although installing a solar carport is not a 100% answer to the “gridless” dream, for some it is one way to at least relieve some of the burden of energy costs at home.
Carport solar energy is an easily realized venture. In California, recognizing the acres of roofed cap parks and other large expanses, solar panels were installed to generate power on the otherwise non-productive structures. With the surge in hybrid cars in California carport solar recharging stations are a convenience for those who park underneath the solar gathering canopy. Simply park the electric car, plug it in, and leave – the energy itself is free (although the parking service may charge the vehicle’s owner for the juice!).
This same technology, a very “green” solution for generating home power as it produces no CO2, can be applied with the installation of residential solar carports. These small-scale home solar farms can go a long way toward reducing energy bills. Also, it is a good way to make use of a space that is otherwise useless and a challenging DIY project.
The technology and materials needed are easily obtained. Solar cells can be purchased online with ease. However, because of the need to fix the photovoltaic cells in a stationary position, oriented so they gather the most sunlight based upon latitude, they should be mounted to a fixed, permanent carport. It is not a good idea to try to attach solar panels to a portable carport as the covering materials and structures are not designed to carry heavy loads, just to provide cover from the elements.
Integrating solar power into the home’s power supply is likewise simple; however, it is a good idea to have a licensed electrician make those connections simply to insure compliance with manufacture’s suggestions and local ordinances. The power generated by photovoltaic cells is direct current (DC). To use it in a residence, the power needs to be converted to AC (alternating current). This requires a device called a “power inverter” – this box plugs into the home’s electrical main, with the DC-generated power line from the solar panels as input.
For those in sunnier climes (and even in places with less than optimal sunlight) spending some research time to investigate the benefits of free power is worthwhile. Energy savings are obvious in reduced energy bills. The US Government, likewise, supplies incentives in the form of subsidies and tax breaks for home owners and businesses that add the “green” of solar power. Thus, building or retrofitting an existing carport as a solar carport may not only save money on energy costs, it may pay money back in tax relief.