Ground-mount and carport solar projects are unique in that they're installed in open areas that are not on a building's roof, providing more versatility should your property be constrained by your roof.
Because they offer more versatility in their location and orientation than a rooftop system, they can often produce more energy. But with additional labor, permitting, or materials they're often more expensive to install upfront. If you're considering a ground-mount or carport system, there are some things to consider and collect before listing a project.
Understanding the property on which you might develop a clean energy project is important for the system's design, permitting, and development.
The first step is to understand your site's boundaries by identifying either your parcel identification number or any other legal documents for a subdivided lot. A parcel is an area of real property denoted by a tax assessor and identified through a parcel ID number. A lot is different from a parcel in that it's a piece of land within a larger recognized subdivision with a written legal description outlining permissions or restrictions associated with its development.
Parcel identification using ReGrid
Your proposed project site might be contained to one parcel or lot, or across more than one. It's important to know if the parcels or lots belong to you, giving you the legal right to develop. Additionally, if you're developing a project that might receive an incentive from a utility program, that program might restrict the project or its power generation to one contiguous parcel.
You want to ensure that your project location is not located in a flood plain. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers floodplain maps online at the Flood Map Service Center showing a community's potential flood zones.
An environmental assessment (EA) is a public document that evaluates the potential environmental impacts of a proposed solar project and how those impacts can be addressed. EAs help determine whether an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed, as set forth under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Think of an EA as a "miniature EIS."
In the case of a ground-mount solar project, adverse impacts to wildlife, their habitat, or cultural sites through land clearing and disturbance would likely trigger an EA. These disturbances typically take place during the construction and maintenance of the project. Your solar provider should be able to inform you if an EA would be required by the local, state, or federal government. In the case of utility-scale projects, EAs can be performed voluntarily.
A solar geotech report is a report that summarizes key information about the underground, or subsurface, conditions of a proposed project site. The reports - performed by licensed geotechnical engineering firms - characterize the rock, soil, and groundwater properties of the site and help solar providers assess how it could affect the design, construction, and economic feasibility of the project.
Geotech reports can also provide recommendations that are useful in determining whether an EA is necessary or not. They are usually included in permitting applications, so it's an important document to have done in advance of a project.
Note: a geotech report can sometimes be needed for a carport project as well.
Some carport structures need to be high enough to allow vehicles or other large equipment to pass underneath, such as utility trucks or emergency vehicles. That usually can drive up the cost as more material (typically steel) is required to raise the height.
Some jurisdictions may require that the carport not exceed a certain height, or that the structure has to maintain a minimum distance from other surrounding buildings.
Conduit and trenching runs
A conduit is a protective tubing that covers and protects electrical wiring. Sometimes, rather than using a conduit, the electrical wiring can be placed in a trench underground. Conduit and trenching runs are the paths that wires travel from the PV system to the electrical equipment it needs to connect to. It's important to identify where that run could take place and whether any obstructions - whether under or above ground - might interfere with those runs.
It's important to note that people will be driving and parking under the carport structure. While a carport structure offers the benefit of providing shade and protection, smaller details like lighting underneath the canopy of the structure, repainting the parking spots, and the width of the column spacing can all have an effect on the people parking in the carport.
Station A can help
If you're thinking about listing a project on the marketplace, provide high-level information to our clean energy advisors to start the process.