One of the obstacles to overcome in terms of using solar panels to get electricity, especially in denser, urban areas, is the lack of space. Many buildings simply do not have an adequate amount of space on their roofs to accommodate a solar installation. Things like skylights, hatches, air conditioners, and other equipment crowd roofs and take up valuable space. Additionally, fire codes require there to be an empty path six feet wide and nine feet high, leaving even less room for solar panels.
As Co. Exist reports, the solution to these problems is rather simple; lift the solar panels into the air. By building stilts for the solar panels and raising them 10 feet in the air, the safety requirements can be met and enough solar panels can be added to offset a family’s energy bill.
Another issue building solar canopies solves is the fact that many roofs in urban areas are flat. Solar panels need to be built at an angle to absorb as much light form the sun as possible. Solar canopies allow for panels to be oriented in whichever way makes them most useful and efficient.
In New York, the company building these solar canopies is Brooklyn SolarWorks. The startup begins by taking measurements of the roof on which the canopy will be constructed and plugs them into a design tool. Each design is then custom built. After the city approves the structure, the next step is to get neighbors on board because the canopy will rise above the buildings, often times classic brownstones, and are visible from the street.
While the majority of neighbors is usually fine with the designs and thinks they look futuristic, there is still a portion that opposes them. If necessary, Brooklyn SolarWorks can tweak the design so it fits in better with older surrounding buildings, but the company believes the majority of attitudes are changing and it will not be a problem to get approval from neighbors.
The company hopes to expand to cities from Boston to Chicago in the near future.