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Solar Energy free solar carport

Published on June 27th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Pssst, Wanna Buy A Free Solar Powered Carport?

June 27th, 2014 by  

Actually, make that a net-negative solar powered carport. The solar financing company Demeter has just teamed up with the Clinton Global Initiative’s US branch to offer a first-of-its kind “game changing” deal that essentially results in a free solar carport.

To give you an idea of how much this is expected to actually change the game, last year Demeter received a federal SunShot Incubator award of a cool half-million dollars to develop the new financing system, which is aimed like a laser on the small scale, distributed energy market for commercial properties.

free solar carport

Solar carport (cropped) courtesy of Demeter Power Group.

Free Solar Carports – Why Not A PPA?

For those of you familiar with power purchase agreements, the big question is what’s wrong with a power purchase agreement (PPA)?

The end result is basically the same, which is that you pay no money up front for the installation. In both cases, you only pay a monthly fee or rate, which is typically less than what you previously paid for grid-supplied electricity, so what you end up is a free solar installation and lower electricity bills.

So, if the installation happens to be a carport, there you have it: free solar carports.

Taking Solar Brainless

Actually, the simplicity of a PPA mainly applies to residential properties. With small scale solar installations on commercial properties it’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax, and that’s where Demeter Power Group comes in.

CleanTechnica provided Demeter with a space for a guest column last year, which provides a pretty comprehensive rundown of the free solar carport thing.

For those of you on the run, here it is in a nutshell: Demeter has developed a financing mechanism for commercial properties that is aimed at making no-money-down solar installations as quick and simple as a residential PPA.

That’s quick and simple, as in getting lease approval within minutes. The fast-moving mechanism is something Demeter calls PACE, for Property Assessed Clean Energy.

Essentially, PACE is a standard system for matching appropriate customers with installers. It provides contractors with a pricing matrix that enables them to know if their installation price will provide a prospective property with the desired result, such as a “free” solar carport, given the anticipated utility bill savings over time (keeping in mind that grid energy rates typically rise about five percent annually).

Demeter pairs the PACE calculation with its proprietary PACE Lease® third-party financing platform to seal the deal.

Free Solar Carports From the Clinton Global Initiative

Former President Clinton is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t he? Along with our sister site PlanetSave, we’ve been touching base with his alternative energy projects pretty regularly, but this new project, out of Clinton Global Initiative America, takes it up to a whole new level through the Feed-Out® Program.

The Feed-Out Program pairs independent power producers with financing platforms to provide low cost renewable energy at a fixed, predictable price for the consumer.

It dovetails with the Clean Trillion Campaign, which targets a trillion-dollar goal for clean energy investment per year over the next 36 years, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by

Demeter’s role will be to provide its PACE3P® financing mechanism. The game-change comes in because PACE3P links the solar service fees to a voluntary property tax assessment, which eliminates a financing obstacle that has typically prevented small businesses and commercial properties from getting credit approval for a solar installation.


Here’s something interesting for you die-hard fuel cell electric vehicle fans. While the partnership with Clinton Global Initiative America is aimed at solar carports for EV charging, the Feed-Out Program embraces fuel cells and other energy storage options.

As for the bad news, if you live in northern California a free solar carport is yours for the asking, as long as your community is registered with Demeter to participate in the PACE program. The rest of us will have to wait.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • ronwint

    There is no such thing as a free solar carport. Add up the PPA payments over the course of the 20 year PPA contract and compare that number to a purchase of the same solar carport after the incentives are applied and then let’s hear you claim that the PPA solar carport is free.

    In most cases, when you compare the energy production and asset value over the life of a purchased system (25 to 30 years) to the energy production and no asset value over the life of a PPA contracted system, I’ll bet that you’ll find that the PPA carport is far from being free.

  • Wayne Williamson

    This is excellent, I can only hope it will be somehow rolled out across the US. The small business center(in FL) that I work in has a section of covered parking. Probably only 30 meters by 5 meters, or 150 sq meters that would be perfect for this.

  • Marcus Joo

    This is great. I think the small scale commercial solar market is very unengaged, mostly due to lack of repeatable financing structures.

  • JamesWimberley

    PACE (Wikipedia link) is a matter of public policy. Either your state and municipal legislation provides for it, or it’s not available. All installers and project companies like Demeter can offer is tweaks.

  • This is definitely at the commercialization and deployment stage. Installation of solar canopies for parking lots need good old American nudging.

    Apparently, there’s somewhere between 100 million and 2 billion parking spaces in the United States. Eran Ben-Josephs, an urban planning dude at MIT put the number at 800 million. By his estimates that’s an area the size of Puerto Rico.

    So let’s see how much potential PV capacity there is. Puerto Rico land area is 3,515 square miles. That’s 2,249,600 acres.

    The internet (first search page) told me about 5 acres are needed per megawatt. Or 2.8 acres is needed to generate 1 GWh over time. I have no idea if these numbers are correct, but it doesn’t matter, I’m telling the story here.

    So that’s a capacity of 449,920 MW. Let’s say 30 percent is doable and round up or down depending where the number ends up….150,000 MW of capacity or 150 GW.

    Or there’s potentially 803,428 GWh. Again assuming only 30 percent…250,000 GWh. So that’s not nothing. Solar as of 2013 is at about 8,000 GWh. Total renewables is about 500,000 Gwh. Wind is at about 170,000 GWh.

    Hey, this is in marketing hands now.

    • sault

      Covering parking lots with solar canopies would also reduce the urban heat island effect, lower fuel / electricity consumption by keeping people’s cars cool AND provide a great source of DC charging for EVs if we take care to integrate this option into the design of the canopies.
      Also, I don’t have any data, but the extreme heat of hours of direct sunlight, thermal cycling from day / night cycles and being alternately shaded and uncovered by vehicles, and the UV rays from the sun might damage road surfaces in some way. Solar canopies limit or completely eliminate this damage.

      • The urban heat island issue is very important. There’s so many things that would add up in addition to taking advantage of space for PV Solar. One, off hand, is keeping the cars cooler. A big chunk of energy is probably wasted to run the car air conditioner simply to cool it from something god awful to something bearable.

        I’m sure one argument would be structure materials. Like the carbon footprint of mining, manufacturing, transporting and constructing PV panel support structures. All designed by Frank Gehry and promoted by the ghost of Ada Louise Huxtable, former New York Times architectural critic. Nonsense.

        There’s so much building material being razed and dumped that I’m sure could easily be repurposed. And not look too bad. An engineer just has to prepare performance specification with general criteria for loads (vertical, horizontal, wind). The designer/artist could come up with something that doesn’t look too ugly.

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