Ground-mounted Solar Demand Surpassing Bulding-mounted in US Market

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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.

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Jake Richardson

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter:

Jake Richardson has 1008 posts and counting. See all posts by Jake Richardson

16 thoughts on “Ground-mounted Solar Demand Surpassing Bulding-mounted in US Market

  • Again with the 2 axis tracker. Is it cost effective vs simple seasonal adjustment? With the price of pv, the trackers are three times the cost of the panels on them.

    • It probably depends on the utility that runs the net metering and the demand profile of the area. If there is a lot of demand and high prices remain past 5 or 6 o’clock, the added production of trackers can offset a lot of those peak price kWhs. Also, areas with a constrained amount of area to install panels might see tracking systems as a more attractive alternative.

  • “There is an advantage to using carports because they already exist,
    meaning no new construction is necessary to support PV panels..” The post doesn’t distinguish between mounting panels on existing carports (covered parking), which may be problematic because the roof orientations are unsuitable, and building solar carports on uncovered parking lots. The latter must surely offer most of the space available.
    How many of the new carport installations take the opportunity to offer recharging?
    The alternative green carpark is one with trees.

    • We just quoted solar being installed over an existing (non-covered) parking lot. It would be great to provide shade to the employees but is quite a bit more expensive to install due to the large amount of structure that must be put in to support it. We were looking at ~15% more cost for the system (PPA pricing) for the solar installed over a parking lot vs typical ground mount and/or roof mount. We are waiting to hear back on the latest round…but it’s just plain more expensive.

  • I’m all for covering parking lots with solar panels but paving over the desert isn’t smart either.
    Cover all appropriately located rooftops with solar panels as there are millions of acres of it and the power user is just below. The buildings will be cooler too.
    It cannot happen fast enough!

    • Well . . . desert is generally area that is cheap and no one wants. But, yeah, rooftops should be covered.

  • Five billion acres? At 640 acres per square mile thats 7.8million square miles, or more than two and a half times the land area of the US!
    (Maybe that meant enough for 5 gigawatts?)

    • Good catch. Apparently there are between 105 million and 2 billion parking spaces in the U.S. That estimate means nobody knows for sure. Still a lot.

      How many are vacant or useable for solar? How about 10%.

      • By the way 10% of 105,000,000 parking spaces at 200 sq ft each is 75 sq miles, available as a low estimate for solar arrays.

      • Why would the parking spaces being vacant matter?

        • My estimate is the lowest possible because you do need some space for racking, but yes, I don’t know why the civil engineers couldn’t use a much higher percentage. The maximum area is, after all 750 sq miles! That’s a lot of panels. Enough to provide 10% of the total electric demand of the U.S.

    • I just got paid $7500 working off my computer this month. And if you think that’s cool, my friend has twin toddlers and made over $8k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do…..

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  • The sad thing about this is that residential home-owners are letting the utilities have all the fun. Install solar PV on your own home people!

  • As a desert dweller living in Lake Havasu City, AZ which is just across the Colorado River from Callifornia I thought I would chim in.

    I have been promoting solar PV in Lake Havasu City for about 10 years. As a result we have a good balance of roof top, ground mount and parking lot systems. One big advantage of solar PV mounted on a parking struture is that you get to park in the shade and for desert dewlers that’s important. And a shaded parking space in the desert means its a prefered parking space. Most of our city offices parking spaces are covered with PV structures. Our high school was going to go with roof top mounted solar but in the end decided on covered parking lot solar.

    It is not uncommon for a car parked in the sunshine in the desert even with the windows cracked open to get to 150 F inside and the steering wheel can get so hot you can only touch it with your findertips until it cools down. One excellent example of the value of covered parking to a business is our local Basha’s Super Market. It has shaded parking areas covering about 75% of their parking lot. Ifs fun to watch how people follow the shade during the day. I can only imagine how much their revenue has increased since their parking lot is almost always filled while other markets are almost empty.

    So why do so many people love to live in a hot and dry desert? Well we almost never have snow, sleet, power outages, hail, tornadoes or earthquates and the fishing is good. Did I mention the air qualitiy and the stars at night are also awesome, LOL

    So rooftop vs parking lot vs trackers vs ground mount its all good and highly dependent on where you live and what you live in or near. Solar is a power source that we can really live with.

    Have a great day everyone.

    • Thanks, Tom

      • Hi Jake:
        Going to Walmart later today to buy some carburator cleaner. Walmart DOES NOT have covered parking but I sure wished they did. Oh well, I guess we can’t have everything we wish for in life can we, LOL.

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