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Offering Solar Carports: Self-Storage Operators Fill a Niche While Generating Eco-Revenue

Robin Heuer Comments

Boat and RV owners often find there are limited places in which to store their prized possessions. Many cities and homeowners’ associations have banned the storage of larger vehicles in driveways and on curbsides, forcing boat and RV owners to seek alternative storage. In addition, a key requirement of storage for most boat and RV owners is their vehicles’ protection from the elements including rain, wind, snow, water and sun.

In fact, the sun is the single greatest factor in the deterioration of boats and RVs. Solar radiation destroys the finish on these vehicles and weakens materials. Heat from the sun causes materials to expand and then shrink when the temperature cools. This constant cycle can cause irreparable damage.

To keep boats and RVs out of the harmful rays of the sun—and other inclement weather—many owners are turning to self-storage to safely and securely store their vehicles. Smart self-storage operators are exploring the use of solar carports as an eco-friendly and lucrative alternative to uncovered vehicle storage.

Criteria for Solar Carports

RV- and boat-storage facilities not only provide a valuable service to customers, this niche product can also have an excellent return on investment for the self-storage operator. Now, this investment can be enhanced even more with photovoltaic (PV) systems, which allow a storage facility to harness the sun’s energy to generate power while providing protection for RV, boat and vehicle storage.

As with any self-storage construction project, certain criteria must be met to achieve the best results. Sites suitable for PV systems 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. Other key components include:

  • Solar panels, which convert sunlight to electricity.
  • The solar support system. This has a dual purpose: supporting the panels that generate electricity and providing covered parking.
  • Inverters, which convert DC power to utility-grade AC power.
  • Monitoring equipment, which ensures all components of a PV system operate at expected efficiency levels.

Generating Revenue

Solar shading structures are an ideal way to generate revenue for shaded parking while offsetting rising utility costs. Electricity rates have spiked dramatically in the last five years, leaving many operators scrambling to finds ways to cover the extra expense. 

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