During the last couple of years, solar energy has become a very popular, reliable, and effective power alternative for both residential and commercial consumers. As a result, solar panels can be seen in many different houses and buildings all across the country. However, seeing that they have proven to be worth the investment, it was a matter of time until the trucking industry decided to catch on this renewable energy trend.
The director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), Michael Roth, has been interested in researching how solar energy could become an essential part of the trucking industry. Thanks to a study conducted by the NACFE and the Rocky Mountain Institute, the question of whether solar panels belong in trucking has been answered, giving positive results. Last year, they issued a Confidence Report on Solar for Trucks and Trailers, aimed at explaining how these two industries could meet.
This report described several considerations that trucking companies should take into account if they want to invest in solar panels for their fleets. One of the most relevant findings shows that the most common use for solar energy in trucking is supplementing the HVAC battery systems and hotel loads without having to add more batteries to the trucks. Extending battery life and avoiding roadside assistance is one of the main benefits that solar panels can bring to the industry.
Investing in solar panels represents a large investment, and the NACFE’s main concern is that some freight companies might not be aware of the costs when they start investing in solar energy. However, what they worry about the most is that companies may not be aware that the costs of replacing batteries and having to get roadside assistance because of dead batteries represent an even higher cost that investing in renewable energy, which is one of the reasons why they issued such report.
There are other considerable conclusions in the report that the NACFE wanted to point out. Firstly, they wanted to highlight that solar power is no longer something still in development, or that is not largely available yet. Many trucking companies are already using this alternative to power their trucks, and the results have been largely satisfactory. Yet, despite the positive results, fuel savings from solar energy are still quite small, as these come from other factors and practices that we need to address with our drivers through training and education.
Another important consideration is that solar panels need to be sized according to the application we will give them. Panels for solar energy tend to be sold on a standard size, but this size might not be the right one for our trucks or our facilities. Before investing, we need to consider the problem we are trying to solve in order to determine the best size for the panels we will get.
Manufacturers have been improving their panels, which increases their performance. As time goes by, we will see more effective solar panels that will also be more affordable. Therefore, as trucking and freight companies look for ways to optimize their operations, solar energy panels might be the future of the way the industry thinks of renewable energy.