Storage carports are easy to construct and require little to no maintenance. Now self-storage owners can take this simple structure to a new level by integrating solar cells into the construction of new carport covers. The addition of solar power to a self-storage property will reduce energy costs and could lead to tax rebates. “It’s clean, free energy,” says Ron Phillips, director of training and sales for Solar Source in Largo, Fla. “It’s a tremendous resource that we don’t use enough of.”
Baja Construction Co. of Martinez, Calif., began offering solar carports nearly two years ago after hearing the many benefits from a local solar-power company. One of the major selling points was easy installation, says Robert Hayworth, president of Baja, a turnkey metal-construction engineer, manufacturer and installer. “If there’s a leak, you don’t have to worry about any damage.”
As with any self-storage construction project, certain criteria must be met in order to achieve the best results. Sites suitable for solar power must have an adequate source of sunlight, up to five hours daily; the building orientation should have a southern-exposed roof; and the carport should also have acceptable shading conditions, according to Hayworth.
While adding a solar carport can be costly upfront—averaging about $10 per watt—they can also become a profit-generator. First, the solar carport is eligible for tax rebates. In fact, depending on the state, the solar system can easily pay for itself within five years. On average, the commercial solar federal tax credit is 30 percent for an eligible property, with a five-year accelerated depreciation.
In some states where solar is such a sough-after source of energy, such as in Florida, the government offers hefty tax incentives to businesses investing in solar equipment. Solar systems can also become profit centers if a facility generates surplus energy to the city’s power grid.
With utility costs on the rise, renewable, cleaner sources of energy is a smart business move, and helps business owners be good stewards of Mother Nature. “The price of energy is not going to get any cheaper,” Phillips says. “In 10 years, your system will be paid for and you’ll look like you’re an Einstein because you installed it on your roof.”
Self-storage developers can also earn three credits for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by the U.S. Green Building Council, and can capitalize on its sustainability status. “Not only will your business have a role in combating global warming, you will project an image of environmental responsibility to potential customers,” Hayworth says.
“Generally speaking, if people have a choice between two facilities, they’re going to go to the one that’s the green facility,” he adds. “It will also be easier to get through the building and planning department, because how are they going to say ‘no’ to solar?”