Solar awning / gazebo?

Has anyone looked into or considered building a gazebo with solar panels for a roof? Used panels are getting awfully cheap ($100?!) and seems cheaper than plywood + shingles. i.e. think “tall” ground mount that you can walk under. Sloped will be a requirement, due to the dusty environment (dirt driveway, next to a sand arena).

My perhaps unusual design requirement is that I want it to not drip vs sprinkles or condensation dripping off the panels in the morning. To achieve that I was thinking of some sort of overlap and/or flashing to cover the panel-to-panel gaps. or “gutters” under the sides of each panel (running from ridge downward, not like typical gutters) to catch anything dripping down the side edge. How that would work with horizontally laid racking (so that the panels can be overlapped like shingles), I’m not sure. I suppose a U shaped piece of plastic or rubber that’s just drilled to anchor through would be enough?

I haven’t actually looked terribly deep into this yet, including how much racking typically runs. I have done some sketchup drawings to look at how the cast shadow will be for occupants during the day at 10’ up (over an existing 12x16 3’ tall platform) It feels like extending the panels out by a foot or two will be worth the extra shade. Given the existing platform, the roof could be as big as 15 (225W) panels! That’s unfortunately more than the existing 20A circuit running there could handle (read: more cost to add wire. if I’m lucky maybe the conduit that runs under the driveway isn’t crushed and I can just pull new wire) or if it’s cheap enough, just throw away any excess power. or maybe old panels won’t produce enough power to begin with.

Or does the cost of the racking eclipse the cost of just building a plywood roof and using standard roof racking? (i.e. save on shingles, replace with cheap roll roofing)

So many unknown, looking for some rough guidance, looking for what I don’t know yet.

Worst case, I’m considering simply using vertical solar panels as “walls” to provide shade. That is structurally simpler, at least. That would cut the surface area to 5-7 panels.

The problem here is that you’ll probably have condensation on both sides of the panel. If you want to keep rain on top from dropping down, you can use something like this:

But it won’t solve “condensation on the bottom of the panels.” For that, you’d need… a waterproof sort of system, maybe with some asphalt or metal over a structure, some OSB or something… :wink:

The biggest problem is that you’re going to (a) require microinverters or rapid shutdown, as it’s not a structure purely dedicated to solar (like my ground mount arrays are), and (b) you’re going to have all sorts of nightmares with planning and zoning about “WTF is this, what regulations apply, etc.” I seem to recall you live somewhere they matter.

You might be able to do something with a small string inverter and optimizers. Is your 20A circuit 120V or 240V with a neutral? If it’s 120V only, you’re going to have to pull more wire no matter what you do - most inverters are unhappy without a neutral reference.

I think it’s doable. It’s just going to be 5x the frustration you’re expecting with planning sorts, if you can get over the condensation on the bottom of the panels problem (and I assure you, they will get condensation down there - they’re going to be “radiant cooled into space,” and will be more than cold enough to build up condensation in some conditions).

Existing gazebo is end-of-life. After too many years it’s rusted and the cloth top was all ripped to shreds (and tossed in the trash)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that condensation would be unsolvable. So building an actual gazebo (even with cheap roll roofing) with roof racking for solar would be the only answer to solve the dripping problem.

I’ll see if it pencils out wrt cost (I doubt it), so maybe just a “shade wall” on one side of the gazebo with 3-4 panels (i.e. where that back plywood is today).

Also this looks like a commercial property, at which point I wouldn’t mess with it at all.

Last comment: “solar carport” including larger ones for tractors and RVs looks like a generically better situation (more roof, better built), but the owner just built a lean-to a year ago for the tractor, replacing a tarp based carport, so the budget’s already gone for that idea. OTOH, the owner did just get a new RV, maybe I could suggest a RV carport with solar…

Electricity cost in California have skyrocketed, and is in excess of 50 cents/kwh under some tariffs! Despite the poor NEM 3.0 reception (basically you can’t use the grid as a free battery anymore), I figured this was going to happen eventually. In general, onsite battery installations to shift duck-curve use is in high demand, as are new solar installs.