What is a solar power pergola?
First - a bit of clarification! It rolls off the tongue beautifully, but in Australia a 'Solar Pergola' is NOT the same thing as a solar power pergola. 'Solar Pergola' is a registered trademark for a particular pergola product, which while it's designed to control how sunlight's distributed, doesn't incorporate solar panels or generate electricity.
Solar power pergolas, by contrast, are standard pergolas which have been roofed with solar panels instead of a more conventional pergola roofing material such as battens or polycarbonate panels. The solar panels provide excellent shade and weather protection, but they're not translucent so won't allow sunlight through. These pergolas can be installed in any backyard, and design is limited only by the shape of the panels, opening up a wide range of aesthetic possibilities.
When might you install a solar power pergola?
These systems are great to use as extensions of your roof mounted system if you run out of room. Since you'll already have the necessary components, adding additional panels to a pergola roof as an expansion of your existing system will be less costly than the initial outlay. Stand-alone solar power pergolas don't need to be connected to a main system or the grid, and are sometimes used to supply power to outdoor items such as lighting, cooking areas or water features.
What sorts of things need to be taken into account?
The two biggest concerns with a solar power pergola will be the support structure, and allowing for correct positioning to catch the maximum amount of sunlight. The beams must be sturdy and framing may need to be added to the roof of the pergola to support the additional weight of the panels if it hasn't been designed for that kind of weight. Bear in mind too that a pergola will be harder to weatherproof, since most have no walls to shield them from the elements.
The design of the pergola has to be such that it's angled correctly to take full advantage of the sun exposure. If you are building on top of an existing pergola, you may find that you’ll need to make adjustments to the area to match a north facing inclined roof.