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Solar panel car shed. Why do people install them?

Solar panel car shed. Why do people install them?

    Is a Solar Carport Worth the Investment? Overview, Benefits, and Drawbacks

    What are the cost savings and environmental impact? Learn all you need to know.

    David Kuchta, Ph.D. has 10 years of experience in gardening and has read widely in environmental history and the energy transition. An environmental activist since the 1970s, he is also a historian, author, gardener, and educator.

    A solar carport isn’t just a carport with solar panels installed on top of it; it’s a carport with solar panels built into it. It’s essentially a ground-mounted array of solar panels tall enough to park a car under.

    Solar carports are easier to install than a rooftop solar system because they don’t sit on an existing roof. This makes them less complicated and even something that can be done as a do-it-yourself project, assuming you have the requisite skills and the aid of someone with an electrician’s license.

    Solar Carport or Solar Canopy?

    Solar carport” and “solar canopy” are often used interchangeably. Treehugger defines a solar canopy as a larger structure covering a commercial parking lot, service stations, public electric vehicle stations, and other large-scale operations. We use solar carport to describe a smaller-scale project covering only 1-3 vehicles, such as in a residential setting.

    Benefits of a Solar Carport

    Our cars sit idle for 95% of the time, and the places we put them occupy a great deal of space. In cities, about 40% of all paved areas are taken up by exposed parking areas. Paving over a portion of your property for no other reason than to park an idle vehicle is an investment that gets little in return. Solar carports provide a number of benefits, only some of them financial.

    Extra Power

    The most obvious advantage is the extra power solar carports provide. Whether in a business setting or a residential one, solar carports can be used to charge electric vehicles, or they can be used in combination with a battery backup system, increasing a home’s resilience during power outages and allowing homeowners to reduce their electricity bills.

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    Commercial Benefits

    Especially in commercial zones, where real estate is costly, it makes sense for businesses to cover their parking spaces with solar carports. Not only do they provide shade and shelter for their customers’ or employees’ vehicles, but they generate electricity for their business, resulting in significant savings.

    Businesses and industries can also reduce their carbon emissions or earn income by generating renewable energy credits (RECs), which can be sold to other industries seeking to offset their emissions.

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    Mitigating Heat Islands

    Uncovered pavement contributes to the creation of heat islands, where daytime temperatures can be 1–7 degrees F higher than temperatures in surrounding areas. This exacerbates the dangers of rising global temperatures, especially for people more likely to suffer from heat exposure, such as the elderly, young children, and low-income communities.

    Installing carports at residences or over commercial parking lots can reduce the stress of reflected heat by absorbing solar radiation and converting it into usable energy.

    Better Sun Exposure

    Being mounted on a frame means the solar panels on a carport can be angled to maximize their exposure to the sun, rather than have to comfort the pitch and angle of an existing roof. While an east-west facing roof may not have sufficient exposure to merit the cost of a solar installation, a free-standing carport can be installed at any angle. And depending on its height, a solar carport can take advantage of solar trackers, which allow the panels to follow the sun throughout the day.

    Easier Maintenance

    Like other ground-mounted panels, a solar carport is more accessible and easier to maintain than a rooftop system. It is easier to clear snow or debris from them and to periodically wash them with water—without the need to climb on a sloped roof. Should a homeowner’s roof need repair for any reason, there are no panels that need to be removed in order to make the repairs.

    Treehugger Tip

    Strategically place a rain barrel underneath your solar carport and collect free rainwater for your garden or lawn.

    Solar Carport Considerations

    Calculating what a solar carport might cost involves a number of variables, including how many cars you want to cover, whether you buy a kit, do it yourself, or have it installed, and other factors.


    The average American midsize passenger vehicle measures 15-by-6 feet while the average residential solar panel is 5.4-by-3.25 feet. Using back-of-the-napkin math, a residential carport large enough to cover two parked cars might require 20 to 24 solar panels. Solar panels can weigh on average roughly 40 pounds, so a solar carport frame with 20 panels must be able to support up to 800 pounds or more.


    With an average residential solar panel capable of producing 270 to 300 watts, a 20-panel system could output between 5.4 and 6 kW, while a 24-panel system could produce between 6.4 and 7.2 kW. Depending on the efficiency of the panels and how much sun they get, that could be enough to supply the average American household’s annual electricity consumption.


    According to the most recent data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the cost of an installed 22-panel residential rooftop solar system was 5000.71/watt, meaning the cost of the installation of a solar carport might range from 14,600 for a 5.4 kW system to 19,500 for a 7.2 kW system.

    These costs, however, are for rooftop solar systems, which are more complex to install. A simpler solar carport might be significantly less, but since data about solar carport installations is not available without getting a quote from a specialized installer, the cost is harder to calculate.

    Solar carports may be eligible for financial incentives, such as federal credits and state or utility rebates. Currently, the federal tax credit is 26% and is set to expire in 2024, though this may change with new federal legislation. Should you qualify for it, a full federal tax credit would reduce the price of a 15,000 system to 11,100.


    The process of installing panels is not that complicated, though there are some important considerations.

    A DIY project could cut costs significantly: the cost of the panels alone could be from 3,750 and up for a 20-panel system and 4,450 for a 24-panel system. Even adding the carport frame, racking materials, wiring, permitting, and other costs, a DIY project may result in significant savings. SolarReviews estimates that a DIY solar carport may cost between 5,000 and 14,000.

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    An installer specializing in rooftop solar systems can install a carport for you, but note that roughly two-thirds of the cost of a solar installation comes in “soft costs” such as design, permitting, inspections, and labor. Depending on the scale of your project, it may be more economical to stretch the soft costs over a combined solar carport and rooftop system to get more return for your investment.

    Because of their unique configuration, it may be less expensive to work with a company that specializes in both standard-sized and customized solar carport installations. Still, other companies offer solar carport kits for homeowners or businesses to install themselves.

    If you have the right DIY skills to install a support structure upon which you affix solar panels, and with the help of a licensed electrician, you can build your own solar carport. Just make sure you follow all applicable building codes.

    Solar-Ready Carports

    Double Carport Professional Choice

    Gable Carport Professional Choice

    Dutch Gable Patio or Carports. Professional Choice

    Hip Roof Patio or Carports. Professional Choice

    Double Garage Plus Workshop Professional Choice

    Farm Sheds or Barn Professional Choice

    Double Single Garage Professional Choice


    Solar-Ready Carports

    Solar-Ready Carports. First business in Australia to offer a residential solar carport. We now offer a custom made choice of skillion (flat roof),gable, Dutch Gable or Hip roof custom made carports strong enough to fit solar panels on the roof.

    Solar and Solar-Ready Carports

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    The unique Solar Carports come in Single bay or double bay designs. No customisation is possible with solar carports, what you see is what you get.


    Solar-ready option, strong enough for solar panels on the roof! The option of having a carport built at the same price or less as a ‘standard’ carport but built with the strength in engineering to support the weight of solar panels. This is another Australian break-through in carport design.

    You can choose size. width, length, height and colour(s) for your Skillion (flat roof) or Gable, Dutch Gable or Hip roof carport. We can supply a carport kit engineered with the strength to retro-fit a roof-top solar system of your choice.

    Save money

    A ‘proper’ solar carport is very efficient and ‘different’ but very expensive. Under 3000 can supply a single bay solar-ready skillion carport. 3000 or less will supply and fit a solar panel system by a local solar expert. This means you can have a single carport with a solar system retro-installed for thousands of dollars less than a single solar carport. The savings on a double solar-ready carport will be even greater.


    Solar-ready carport installation is DIY. (or we can help organise an installer in most cases). Solar Carports must be installed by a licenced professional.

    How Does A Solar Carport Work?

    Unlike with traditional PV installations attached to rooftops, ground-mounted PV systems rely on tilted panels installed several feet off the ground.

    Solar carport structures use a ground-mounted model – except that the solar panels are installed even higher off the ground to provide enough clearance for parked vehicles. Some solar carports also come with in-built electric vehicle (EV) charging stations so that drivers can top up their batteries while out shopping or at home.

    How Much Does A Solar Carport Cost?

    In the U.S., a standard solar carport system might cost between 3.45 and 4.00 per watt, with these expenses going toward the panels themselves, the carport structure, labor, wiring, and other components. For an average-sized, 5kW system, Understand Solar breaks down the cost for the following:

    • Solar panels for a 5kW system: 12,000 to 18,000
    • Solar carport structure: 5000,500
    • Additional costs for labor, wiring, and interconnection may apply

    While these are rough averages, there are several different factors that might influence the total cost of a solar panel carport. While solar carports in some areas may be on par or more expensive than rooftop solar, they can be used for homes and commercial spaces that have:

    • Excessive shading
    • Chimneys, vents, and gables
    • Limited rooftop space
    • Incorrect roof orientation

    The Benefits Of Solar Carports

    Despite their costs, however, residential and commercial solar panel carports provide a host of advantages over rooftop and ground-mounted PV systems.

    Reduced Energy Expenses

    Solar canopies represent an easy way to turn unused areas into mini power plants. Just as with rooftop solar installations, clients can generate their own clean electricity on-site instead of buying power from the utility company. As a result, solar carport owners benefit from monthly electricity savings – not to mention smaller carbon footprints.

    With enough installed capacity, users could even sell excess solar energy back to their utility providers through incentive programs like net energy metering.

    It is also easier for solar servicers to reach panels on carports, making it easy to perform the minimal maintenance panels may need during their lifespan.

    Efficient Use Of Space

    Ground-mounted solar installations take up valuable real estate, with the space underneath not providing much benefit. Similarly, the average parking lot isn’t terribly productive (even when cars are parked there).

    Solar carports offer the best of both worlds – allowing users to optimize limited real estate by transforming unproductive parking spots into renewable energy-generation machines.

    Protection From The Elements

    In addition to generating cheaper and cleaner electricity for their owners, solar carports also provide protection from the elements:

    • On the hottest days of the year, solar carports help shade vehicles, resulting in more comfortable commutes for their drivers
    • Solar carports provide protection from rain, sleet, and snow, helping to prolong the useful lifetimes of the vehicles underneath


    Commercial and residential solar carports can be integrated with EV-charging solutions:

    • Homeowners enjoy peace of mind in knowing that their electric vehicles are charged with clean energy
    • Business owners who install solar carports with chargers give EV drivers another reason to walk through the door

    Power Generation

    Although solar carports carry a higher price tag, they are easier to manipulate and optimize than traditional rooftop PV systems. It’s much easier to reorient a parking spot than it is to reposition an entire roof. And this allows installers to orient their clients’ carports in the optimal direction to maximize sun capture – and by extension, solar power generation, carbon offsets, and monthly savings.

    Incentives For Solar Carport Installations

    For residential carport installations, homeowners can qualify for the federal income tax credit, which could get them up to 30% off their installation through 2032. Some states also offer incentives, so be sure to read up on your areas of service so you can point clients in the right direction. For the 5kW carport system we outlined above, this could mean a savings of nearly 6,000 if the homeowner qualifies for the full tax credit.

    Some commercial solar carport installations could qualify for the 30% tax credit, but most will not currently. We recommend checking out state and local incentives for businesses to understand what a commercial system could qualify for.

    Where can you get a solar carport?

    There aren’t many companies selling solar carports for the home yet — whilst they’re really catching on in commercial circles, the solar carport is still a relatively new idea in residential markets. A couple of companies notable for offering carports for the residential market are Solar Electric Supply, Inc. and Florian Solar Products.

    Unfortunately, most companies only offer personalized quotes, making it hard to give an accurate estimate of the cost of a solar carport in an article like this one. That said, I did manage to find one manufacturer happy to supply a price up front.

    Solar Powers Frames, LLC. offers a price list that lets us get an estimate for the cost of a solar carport frame. Their semi-cantilevered design has a covered footprint of roughly 18 by 19 feet — that’s large enough to comfortably house two cars parked side-by-side. The frame will hold just shy of five kilowatts worth of 300 W panels, for an approximate cost of 5000,200. Bear in mind that this price does not include the cost of installation. It may also vary a bit depending on the needs of your local environment — higher wind loads or heavy snow loads will both drive up the price, as they need heavier foundations and larger sections of steel to make sure everything is safe and up to code.

    It’s worth noting that the offering from Solar Powers Frames is a very bare-bones, utilitarian design. It’s mainly aimed at commercial parking lots, where looks aren’t really a major concern. While it’s a solid, functional structure, there’s little to recommend it from an aesthetic standpoint.

    If you want something that better fits in with the aesthetic of your home, it’s worth considering getting the structure “purpose built.” According to, a purpose built carport can be had for as little as 3,500 — possibly even cheaper. That cost likely includes roofing materials like felt or slates; as you won’t be needing those, the price drops further. Your solar installer may be willing to build something for you, or you might have to hire a specialist contractor just for the carport frame.

    So, how much will a solar carport set you back?

    Though we can’t get precise figures, we’ve still got enough to do a comfortable back-of-the-envelope calculation. I’ll be using average, or close to average, figures for everything here — as always with these things, take the answer with a pinch of salt. The specifics of your own situation could give you a wildly different result.

    Let’s assume the frame will cost 5000,500. We’ll make a further assumption that it’s going to house a 5kW system — in most states that will set you back between 16,000–18,000. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume the 18,000 figure, bringing your total cost up to 20,500.

    After accounting for the 30% federal tax rebate, the solar carport is going to set you back by 14,350 — compared to 12,600 for a roof mounted solar system.

    I’ve made a few other assumptions — our imaginary average home is using 10,821 kWh per year, and is sited somewhere where with the national median amount of insolation (energy from the sun). This gives our 5kW system a yearly output of 7,020 kWh, and after 25 years, it will have degraded to 80% of its rated output. Our utility company — AverageCo — is supplying grid power at 12.5¢, and energy are steadily increasing at 3.5% per year.

    • Taking all of that into account, without any solar system at all, you’ll be paying out approximately 52,700 for all your energy over the next 25 years.
    • The rooftop solar system will pay for itself in its 13th year, and save you roughly 17,800 or about 34%.
    • The solar carport pays for itself during its 14th year of operation, giving a saving of 16,000, or 30%.

    Is a solar carport worth it?

    How much do you value your parking? If you’ve got the space for it, I’d say a cost of around 450,800 spread over 25 years is a good value proposition for the quality of life improvements. A cleaner car, a more comfortable driving experience, not burning yourself on the seatbelt or roasting yourself alive in the summer months, no early morning rush to scrape the snow and ice off your car before work in winter — I’d say it’s worth it.

    Solar carports are still a relatively rare thing, and not typically a standard option. Getting one installed may be more of a hassle, but if you have the space and could use the improvements or you can’t put panels on your roof, I’d definitely recommend you consider it. If you want to know how you can use a solar carport to charge an electric car, read our post: “How Many Solar Panels Does it Take to Charge an Electric Car?”

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