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A Solar Carport Can Power Your Office, Charge Your Car

Advanced Roofing's solar carport powers the office and lets drivers charge their electric cars.

Why not turn your office parking lot into a power plant?

That is the idea behind solar carports, which can generate enough electricity to power an office while also providing shade for vehicles, charging electric cars and doubling as pavilions for company events. They can also have lighting systems, drain water and snowmelt away from cars and link up with security systems. 

Whole Foods installed a solar canopy over a parking lot at a Brooklyn location in 2014; it produces 325 kilowatts of power.  In California, Blue Shield insurance is installing a solar carport that produce 3.5 megawatts. Personalized carports that cover one or two vehicles can be had for less than $2K.

A Fort Lauderdale company, Advanced Roofing, started as a re-roofing contractor dealing with HVAC systems, and, about 10 years ago, branched into solar installations. Advanced Roofing CEO Rob Kornahrens said solar carports have been around for years, but recent market forces have made them attractive now. Prices have dropped about 50% in five years, he said. 

"The solar carport market is growing fast in Florida because there’s a convergence of factors that make for solid ROI," Kornahrens said. "It’s a timing issue; as the cost of utility power continues rising, the cost of solar installations continues coming down."

The federal Business Energy Investment Tax Credit offers a 30% tax credit until Dec. 31, 2019. That percentage will drop to 10% by 2021. Kornahrens also said the new federal tax policy’s bonus depreciation makes up to 100% of the cost deductible in the first year of operation.

According to Energy Sage, a solar carport costs about $3.67 per watt, slightly more expensive than rooftop solar, which is $3.16 per watt.

The new solar array features two types of panels.

"Owners generally want to know about return on investment, and our carports have seven- to 10-year ROI," Kornahrens said. "With energy costs and all factors considered, break-even will be between seven and 10 years, and panels are warrantied to 25 years at 80% of original capacity. So that provides 15 to 18 years of energy benefits after break-even." 

Advanced Roofing recently installed a demo carport at its Fort Lauderdale office that incorporates two different types of panels, opaque and transparent, with and without water drainage systems. The carport fits 16 cars and also includes electric vehicle charging stations to power electric vehicles in the company fleet.

It has an 84-kilowatt power capacity, producing over 124,000 kilowatt hours  of energy per year — enough to run an office with 30 or 40 people, plus operate the two car chargers and still export energy to the grid. A company gets credit on its electric bill when it sends excess energy to the grid.

“We’re producing 100% of our main office’s energy needs, and that’s a doable goal for so many businesses that own their office and industrial locations,” Kornahrens said.