Solar Carport Demonstration Project

With the goal of learning more about how solar electricity could be generated at the public parking garages and lots, the DDA approved a pilot project for the Fourth & Catherine parking lot utilizing a carport with solar panels.    The installation was recently completed and is now live.   This 11kW installation will generate enough electricity to cover the usage of the parking lot including the electric vehicle charging stations.  It will serve as a valuable pilot project from which insights can be gained that one day could be used to expand the program with solar generation on the roof decks of the parking structures.

The location that was selected has nearly full exposure to the sun, and is in close proximity to the Farmers Market, Braun Court, People’s Food Coop, and other popular downtown destinations.   The carport was placed over electric vehicle parking spaces.    At this time it isn’t possible to directly connect the solar collectors to the electric car chargers, but this corner of the lot was chosen to demonstrate how in the future this kind of connected arrangement might work.   At present it is more of a “zero sum game” where the solar panels create energy for DTE roughly equivalent to the amount of electricity used by equipment on the lot.

Solar power estimates for this pilot project :

  • Electric load = 13,850 kWh/yr   Annual electric cost = $1,845   cost per kWh = $0.113
  • 11kW solar generation (this is maximum size for this site, which is limited by the rules for the DTE net metering program)
  • 13,680 kWh/yr * $0.113/kWh = $1,546/yr electricity generated per year

This system is estimated to save $47,700* in electricity over a 25 yr lifetime.   After 30 years it is estimated it will have generated $61,700* in electricity.   The system could last up to 40 years.          (* assumes 3% electric inflation, $200/yr maintenance)

Later this year the DDA will submit its plans for the expansion of the Ann Ashley parking structure.  This project will include anchors in the new roof for a future solar electric installation.  In addition it will include additional electric capacity for 10 new electric vehicle chargers plus 10 future electric chargers.

Also later this year the DDA anticipates adding its first on-street electric vehicle charging units.  They will be placed on the east side of the 200 block of N. 5th Avenue, across the street from the Larcom Building.

The DDA embraces sustainability projects as a way to meet its mission and in support of the City’s Climate Action Plan.