As more and more EV charging locations are installed around the world, along with a steadily increasing number of electric vehicles sold and distributed, the value and impact of that charging infrastructure increases to society overall. It would be a net benefit to make sure that infrastructure a) generates a share of the required increase in electrical capacity and b) is free of debris and in good working order at all times. One simple way of achieving both is by installing solar carports at EV charging stations.
In 2014, Greentech Media forecasted that by the end of 2016, solar carports would represent about $850M in the US. With the sudden increase in electric vehicle consumer demand, and the expansion of charging infrastructure by Tesla and others since that time, it would surprise few at this point if the growth trend is even more electrifying going forward.
In Canada, where one can count on Winter making its presence felt from three to six months of the year, the addition of a solar carport takes on a new degree of urgency. Besides the build-up of snow and ice restricting access to the chargers, the impact of moisture, freeze/thaw cycles, etc, on electrical and electronic systems may present serious challenges to the functionality and safety of the chargers. Its conceivable to imagine a scenario where PV carports are actually required at public locations, to protect the public interest.
In Alberta this winter, a record amount of snow has fallen at various times in the Calgary region, one of the hotbeds of EV growth in Western Canada. Over the past several years public EV chargers have grown in number, with ChargeHub reporting 42 public locations now available within 10 miles of downtown Calgary. This represents an attractive opportunity for solar entrepreneurs to help “solarize” this infrastructure, greatly improving its overall efficacy and performance.
Calgary-based IRONCOR Solar is already on the job. Three years ago it made a strategic move to combine metal fabrication and solar. Working from a 10,000 square foot shop in Crossfield, the company is now in the commercialization stage, educating prospective customers about the benefits of parking under solar, both inside and outside the EV charger market (and we haven’t even discussed the carports’ potential hail-fighting properties).
Individuals, companies, and municipal governments can all harvest the benefits of combining EV chargers and solar, given a suitable location with adequate annual sun exposure (irradiance).