South African landlords are transforming their parking areas into eco-friendly energy hubs, aiming to decrease electricity costs and protect tenants from ongoing blackouts. This trend, known as solar carports, is taking the world by storm, with countries like France leading the way.
The Rise of Solar Carports
- Global adoption of solar carports is on the rise
- France mandates solar panels for carparks with 80 or more vehicle spaces
- South African companies, like Makro, are following suit
Solar carports feature raised photovoltaic (PV) panels that cover parking bays, generating clean energy while also providing shade for vehicles. As the trend gains momentum, even France has passed legislation requiring solar panels on all large existing and new carparks.
Adapting to Energy Challenges
South African companies, such as Makro, are embracing solar carports in response to the country’s unreliable energy supply from Eskom. ACES Africa, a solar energy company, has seen a significant uptick in inquiries regarding these facilities, according to managing director Anré Gustav Gous.
- Landlords, retailers, and housing estates are exploring their options
- Rooftop PV and solar carports are popular choices
- Rooftops, however, may not always be suitable for solar systems
ACES recently installed a 3.6MW solar panel system in the Trade Route Mall’s parking lot, which will cover about 30% of the center’s electricity needs. The mall is also considering other solutions, such as battery storage units.
Advantages of Solar Carports Over Rooftop Systems
While solar carports have higher upfront costs compared to rooftop-mounted systems, they offer several advantages:
- Panels can be arranged to optimize power generation
- Similar or better cost per kilowatt hour compared to rooftop solar
- Ease of maintenance
- Effective use of space
Johan Pienaar, CEO of Eversolar, points out that solar carports are easy to maintain, make good use of space, and provide solid yields. With growing interest from shopping centers and residential estates, some new developments are even designing their parking areas based on the best locations for solar systems.
Obstacles to Widespread Adoption
The expansion of rooftop and carport solar solutions faces a significant challenge: a lack of qualified installers. James Shirley, managing director of Hudaco Energy, says this issue is only worsening as households and businesses scramble to reduce their dependence on Eskom.
To address this skills shortage, Shirley suggests that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges and mentorship programs should be utilized. Moreover, he emphasizes that South Africa has “undervalued artisans” such as plumbers and electricians, who could play a crucial role in the solar carport revolution.
In summary, South African landlords are increasingly adopting solar carports as a way to mitigate electricity costs and protect tenants from blackouts. While upfront costs and a shortage of skilled installers present challenges, the numerous advantages of solar carports make them an attractive solution in the quest for clean, reliable energy.