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Solar Carports Explained, and Why You Need One ​

With the current state of energy prices, it makes more sense now than ever to invest in solar panels. 
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Nowadays, electric vehicles are more than just a viable alternative to petrol and diesel cars. They’re a well-established thing, and after 2030 they’ll be the only type of car you can buy in the UK.

Electric vehicles perform well, they’re cheaper to run and they don’t pollute the atmosphere. Plus there’s more. Excitingly, nowadays, with solar energy, you can charge an electric car for free, using the sun.

The electricity that solar carports produce is normally used to charge an electric vehicle. We’ll explain everything you need to know about this. However, solar carport electricity can be used for other purposes as well. We’ll also explain this.

Did you know that, nowadays, electric vehicles account for almost 15% of new vehicle registrations in the UK? 

What is a Solar Carport?

A solar carport is a carport that produces electricity by having solar panels on its roof.

Solar carports can come as either:

  • An adaptation to a conventional carport – where solar panels are fitted to the roof of a normal carport
  • A purpose-built solar carport – where the carport itself is constructed from solar panels

 

Often, solar carports that are built as an adaptation to a conventional carport are seen as more visually appealing. You can fit solar panels to the roof of a wooden framed carport, for example. In this case, the solar panels will be partially hidden within the carport structure.

Modern purpose-built solar carports aren’t ugly, though, and they’re worth consideration. In many places, a purpose-built solar carport will look perfectly acceptable.

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What Does a Solar Carport Do?

A solar carport does two jobs:

  • It provides shelter for your car
  • It generates free electricity from the sun

 

Solar carports are just the next stage in the evolution of the carport. Not only can you keep your car sheltered in the winter and shaded in the summer. You can also generate free electricity using solar panels.  

Where Can You Build a Solar Carport?

You don’t necessarily have to build a new solar carport. If you’ve already got a carport (or a garage, it’s basically the same thing), then you can fit solar panels onto it and turn it into a solar carport. Otherwise, to have a solar carport for yourself, you’ll need to build a new structure.

You need to be particularly careful about one thing when it comes to building a solar carport – It needs to be located in a good position to harvest the sun’s rays. 

Solar carports can be more difficult to site than roof mounted domestic solar panel systems. House roofs are more elevated than carports and garages and so they’re usually less prone to issues with shading.

Working out whether it will be appropriate to build a solar panel system at your property can be more difficult than it seems at first. It’s best if your carport is in a position where it’s unshaded for most of the day. If you’re in doubt about whether you can build a solar carport at your property, a good idea is to speak to an expert.

What Can You Do With Solar Carport Electricity?

As we mentioned already, most people use solar carport electricity to charge an electric vehicle.

The two main approaches are as follows:

  • If you park your car in the carport during the day (while the panels are making electricity), then you can plug your car directly into an in-built car charging system.
  • If you car park your car in the carport at night, then you can install a battery with your solar carport panels. During the day, the solar panels charge the battery, which you then plug your car into at night.

Note that adding a battery to a solar carport system (or to any solar panel system) does add slightly to the cost. 

For more information about charging electric vehicles from solar panels.

Using Solar Carport Electricity for Other Purposes

Again, as we mentioned already, there aren’t any rules about where you use the electricity your solar carport produces. If your solar carport system is linked to your domestic energy system, then you’ll be able to use the electricity in the same way as your other solar-generated electricity.

You can also:

  • Use solar carport electricity to power electrical appliances in your house
  • Export electricity to the grid and earn money under the Smart Export Guarantee 

In some cases, people actually just use the roof space on their carport or garage to provide additional space for a pre-existing domestic solar panel system.

How Much Will You Save With a Solar Carport?

This is the big question. Unfortunately, it’s not always completely clear. The amount you save will depend on:

  • How much it costs to install your solar carport
  • How much grid electricity you can avoid using with your solar carport
  • The future cost of electricity

 

While it’s hard to be precise, however, it’s definitely possible to make a prediction and so we’ll do that. In the table below are some likely scenarios for savings with a solar carport.

The following savings estimate is based on:

  • Energy consumption figures provided by the Electric Vehicle Database for popular electric vehicles. You can see these figures here
  • A car owner driving 10,000 miles on average per year
  • National Grid electricity costing an average of 34 pence per kilowatt. This was a typical figure for 2022
  • A 2kW solar carport with an annual output of 1580kWh being fitted at a cost of £3500

 

Electric Vehicle Type and Electricity Consumption (Watt-hours Per Mile)

Total Annual Vehicle Electricity Consumption in Kilowatt-hours

Total Annual Cost in Pounds at Grid Prices

Annual Savings With a Solar Carport

How Much an Electric Vehicle Owner Will Actually Spend on National Grid Electricity Each Year

Tesla Model 3 – 245 Wh/mile

2450 kWh

£833

A 2kW solar panel system will always save around £537 per year. Note that this will mean that, at a cost of £3500, it takes 6.5 years to pay off the investment. If the solar panel system lasts for 25 years (this is a typical warranty period), the eventual  return on investment will be £9934

£296

Volkswagen ID.3 Pro Performance – 270Wh/mile

2700 kWh

£918

£381

Nissan Leaf – 269 Wh/mile

2690 kWh

£915

£378

Audi Q4 e-tron 40 – 306 Wh/mile

3060 kWh

£1040

£503

The Electric Vehicle Database average EV figure – 315 Wh/mile

3150 kWh

£1071

£534

For impartial information about solar panels and financial savings, you can look at the Energy Saving Trust.

Get a free solar panel quote from Switchable partner installers today.