Take it as a good sign there is enough segmentation in the solar energy market that we can distinguish easily between ground- and building-mounted types and analyze data. Demand for the ground-mounted variety has been greater for most fiscal quarters since Q1 2012, according to data adapted from North America PV Markets.
One driver of this extra demand is the growth of utility solar projects and ones that employ parking structures for siting PV panels. These projects are considered ground mounted, which is reasonable because carports are not buildings. There is an advantage to using carports because they already exist, meaning no new construction is necessary to support PV panels, and they have their own space, so no new land is needed for the solar projects.
The amount of parking space potentially available may be tremendous, “It was estimated by some energy analysts that there may be over five billion acres of usable parking lots available for solar installations.”
Open land is available in areas away from people, like the areas in parts of deserts, but there are costs to transporting materials to remote locations. Also, environmental assessments need to be conducted to ensure that local flora and fauna will not be damaged by construction. Disruption of their natural lives may also result by the presence of solar power projects, so that potential must be considered as well.
It is only natural that people living near new technology installations might have some concerns, but the chemicals in PV panels are not dangerous. Even in the very unlikely event of a fire there still would probably be not any danger due to chemical emissions:
However, researchers have concluded that the potential for emissions derived from PV components during typical fires is limited given the relatively short-duration of most fires and the high melting point (>1000 degrees Celsius) of PV materials compared to the roof level temperatures typically observed during residential fires (800-900 degrees Celsius). In the rare instance where a solar panel might be subject to higher temperatures, the silicon and other chemicals that comprise the solar panel would likely bind to the glass that covers the PV cells and be retained there.
Another advantage in favor of ground-mounted solar is that these carports can be located near many people who see them and so functional PV systems get more public exposure than when they are located remotely. For example, the Cincinnati Zoo and FedExField, a football stadium used by the Washington Redskins, have parking lots with solar carport installations.
In 2012, NPD Solar Buzz reported that there were 450 solar carports and canopies in the US.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book
Our Latest EVObsession Video
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.