in the news
5 Questions with Ben Jones
According to MarketWatch, the global Solar Canopy Market is estimated to observe significant growth between now and 2028. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that global demand for energy has risen by 4%, and factors around that demand are driving increased interest in solar canopies. But adding a canopy to a new or existing solar array is no small task. We asked our VP of Design & Engineering, Ben Jones, to share his thoughts on solar canopies and carports (among other things).
1. Why are solar canopies so challenging to design compared to other installations?
Ben Jones: Canopies are highly visible, so they need to look great and work great. With roof top systems, the roof is the structure. With ground mounts, typically posts can be installed wherever they are needed. With canopy projects, however, column placement can be very tricky with underground utilities, sub-surface conditions and column spacings of existing multi-story garages. We do canopies well, “Not because they are easy, but because they are HARD!”
2. What is your “superpower” as a designer and engineer?
BJ: A passion for excellence in all aspects of solar canopy design. Understanding what is architecturally and technically feasible and then optimizing the design efficiently so we can exceed customer expectations. Safety is paramount and there are ways of creating architecturally stunning designs cost effectively though rigorous value engineering. It is awesome to turn a rendering into real life and the end product is always worth it. The drone shots don’t reveal the design-build challenges. It truly does take a village to create something spectacular.
3. You lead DSD’s canopy team. How does having an in-house team make a difference?
BJ: Absolutely – and we really care! We control the critical design phase from initial concept, during site investigation and real estate diligence, all the way through permitting and construction. We listen to feedback from customers and installers. We continuously improve designs, solve industry problems, and innovate constantly.
4. There’s been an increased interest in solar canopies and carports of late — even among some of the largest companies in the country. Why do you think that is?
BJ: Solar canopies serve the dual purpose of generating on-site renewable energy and providing protection from the elements. You can’t miss them. And they look really cool if they are designed carefully with the “architectural fit” of the site in mind. Corporations can have their commitment to ESG goals on full display. Solar canopies are a natural fit with EV charging and the next few years will probably see a massive expansion of solar PV canopies + Battery Storage Energy Systems (BESS) + Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure (EVCI) – particularly in large corporate parking lots.
“You can’t miss [a solar canopy]. Corporations can have their commitment to ESG goals on full display.”
5. Way off topic: Of all the TV shows you binged during the pandemic, which was your favorite — and why?
BJ: Ted Lasso. I lived in England for 25 years and still play real football twice a week. I can relate to the emotional roller coaster of the game and a club that gets promoted and regulated. I love the characters and the dynamics between them. DSD is like a big team, with several super-stars and great leaders, all focused on common goals.
The operation and maintenance (O&M) of a solar asset — also known as “asset management” — is key to reducing the volatility of its energy output over the long term.
This slow evolution of energy strategies — gradually increasing renewables while still clinging on to the “tried and true” — needs to be accelerated.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will activate several significant steps toward advancing the use of renewable energies. But what, exactly?