In this special edition of Contractors Corner, solar carport manufacturer Quest Renewables talks about emerging trends in the market, including accommodating larger or bifacial panels, incorporating ancillary features like water management and much more.
Below is a portion of the company’s Solar Spotlight podcast with Solar Power World, but be sure to listen to the full episode below or on your favorite podcast app.
What do you foresee as the biggest emerging trends in solar carports over the next few years?
We’re seeing more and more bifacial panels being used. They’re great from a production standpoint, but also, aesthetically, they look really great. All of that’s really driving the cost per watt down. We’re also starting to see a change in the module format. Panels have been typically right around 1 m by 2 m, but I just got off the phone with a manufacturer who, by 2022, will be at 2.3 m by 1.3 m and a 650 W panel. So things are going to change a lot from that perspective as well.
What is Quest doing as far as those trends go?
We’re trying to drive a lower cost per watt for these systems. As we mentioned, the panels are becoming larger, higher wattage and a little more efficient to install, and that will continue to make installation less expensive. That’s really what we’ve been doing at Quest since we started, is reimagining how you can integrate both the racking and the construction process to really make an efficient construction process for our customers. So that changing form factor leads us to think about how we’re going to continue to efficiently get panels onto the racking at the ground level and then lift them up. One of the other drivers of that lower cost is improved production driven by the bifacial panels, so we’ve designed our systems to maximize the amount of reflective light that reaches the back side of the panels. On top of that, we’re developing ancillary features like water management, etc.
What features are most important to consider in solar carports?
The biggest one has got to be durability. We work with a couple of big customers that have a real understanding of how the environment is changing and they’re specifying strengths that are beyond construction code — anticipating that weather is going to become more unpredictable over the life of the systems that we’re putting in. The second is finding not just the cheapest steel, but finding the most reliable, most predictable and least expensive way overall to get construction done. And then the third piece is really aesthetics, and this is probably the one that we really want to get people’s heads around. It’s really important to understand how that carport really works in the built environment, around whatever else is surrounding it.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to take advantage of these emerging trends?
Especially if you’re just starting out, it’s important to know that it could be two or three years from your initial conversation about a solar carport to the actual construction, and over that two or three years, economics are probably going to get better and better. A lot of times, a project that starts with pretty marginal economics can have great economics for everybody by the time it actually gets built. The key to keeping customers engaged over that period of time is to really talk about the ancillary features that are there. You’ve got the electricity side of it, but also you’ve got potentially water capture, you’ve got shaded parking, you have a really nice aesthetic structure in a parking lot. At the end of the day, what people really love about carports is not whether the ROI is X or Y, they really love getting to use the space under it.
This podcast is sponsored by Quest Renewables