Ten years ago when solar panels were just getting popular it would have been crazy to think that you might be able to power your food truck using only solar panels one day. However, fast forward to 2022 and with the huge advances in technology that we have seen, it is 100% possible to power your food truck exclusively with solar panels. Throughout the rest of this article I will be detailing exactly what you should consider before investing in solar panels for your truck, how to calculate your energy needs, and what you can expect to pay to get your truck equipped with solar panels. Keep reading to get the most up to date and in depth knowledge about retrofitting your food truck with solar panels. Also you can click here to find out how many solar panels you would need for any situation!
Things to Think About When Considering Solar Panels on Your Food Truck
There are several things to consider when you are debating whether a solar powered food truck will be a good option for your business.
The Equipment You Use
Before you invest in solar panels it is smart to first consider the type of food truck you will be running. Different equipment requires different amounts of power and depending on your food truck, you could be looking at a huge range of power estimates based off of what you will be making. For example, if you are serving hotdogs and burgers you might only need a small flat top grill, and a cooler, all of which can be run with solar panels. On the other hand, if you are a more upscale food truck making a number of different heated items at the same time you might require multiple large grills, an oven, a cooler and a freezer.
As you can see your energy needs will vary greatly depending on the equipment your solar food truck will need. Due to this, I believe that everyone’s first step when deciding whether or not they wish to retrofit their food truck with solar is to measure the amount of kilowatt hours of electricity they are currently using. Based off of this number you will have a good estimate of how much solar you will need to produce everyday in order to offset your electricity usage.
Where You Park Your Food Truck
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see when I talk to small business owners that want to retrofit their food trucks with solar: they do not consider where their food truck is parked everyday. This is probably the most important thing to consider when deciding whether you want to go solar or not and it all depends on where your food truck is located. If you park in the same spot every day ask yourself this: does my truck get direct sunlight throughout the time that I will be serving food? You can think about this based on your location and angle. If the answer to this question is no, you might need to consider moving your truck to a new location or reconsider the idea of running a solar powered food truck.
If your truck location does not get sun throughout the day you will have periods of time where you are not generating electricity. Of course not having power is infeasible so you will need to have a backup generator, as well as a system to have it start working whenever your solar stops. Personally I think this is a bit too much and would be more inclined to simply move my truck to a new location where I get adequate sunlight, or not worry about solar at all.
As with any expansion project for a small business your budget is one of the most important things to think about when deciding how and when to complete your project. Additionally, the pay off for a project like solar panels will take many years, meaning that you will need to be able to afford the cost for sometime before the solar panels being paying for themselves. This is not meant to deter you from investing in solar power for your food truck, however it is important to consider the cost of any expansion project before you decide to invest.
The quality of solar panel you decide to buy will also be dependent on your budget and could have a huge impact on the internal rate of return of your solar panels. Decide to buy high end panels and you will most likely get longer lasting, higher quality panels that produce more energy. On the flip side, you could get lower quality panels that produce less power but save yourself money in the short term. Once you know the general amount of energy you use on a daily basis it will be easier to figure out which level solar panels you need/ want.
Even if your solar food truck is located in a place that gets direct sunlight throughout the day, we would still highly recommend having a backup generator just in case something unforeseen happens. You definitely do not want to be stuck without power because of a rainstorm, unable to feed your hungry customers due to the lack of a generator. It is very important to consider not only the best case scenario but the worse case as well, to make sure you are prepared for anything when you head out of the door to work. Preparing for the worst case scenario is something that is important in any business but especially for someone in the service industry.
You might only get one chance to impress a customer and if you are unable to serve them because your solar panels are not generating enough energy you might lose a customer for life. Ensuring that you have reliable power no matter what is happening is of utmost importance, and while solar panels can be a great investment, it is important to think about backup power as well. Now that we have gone over some of the most important things to consider before investing in solar panels for your food truck, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of doing this.
Pros and Cons of Using Solar Panels on Your Food Truck
Unlike putting solar panels on your house, the pros and cons of fitting your food truck with solar panels are not so black and white. When putting solar panels on your house there are essentially no downsides. While the initial cost may be high, if you are in an area with decent sun exposure within 5-7 years your solar panels will have paid for themselves, and you will start to save a huge amount of money on your electric bill. For a food truck on the other hand, the benefits and costs are a bit more complicated.
Can’t Connect to Electrical Grid
The first issue with solar panels on a food truck is that there is no way to connect your truck to the electrical grid. Because of this, you will need to have a backup generator at all times to make sure you have sufficient energy throughout the day, even when your solar panels might not be providing enough power. This will of course increase your expenses and reduce the profitability of the solar panels on your food truck.
Timing / Location Can Be Tough
Another hiccup that you need to consider is the time that your food truck will be operating. If you are a lunch truck then getting solar panels will most likely be able to save you a good amount of money. You are working in the middle of the day when there is the most sun exposure, allowing your solar panels to be as effective as possible. However, if you are an early morning breakfast truck, or working into the evening after sundown, you will need to know how much direct sun you are getting, and how long you will be working without any sun exposure. Those factors will of course greatly affect the efficiency of your solar panels and in turn, the viability of your solar panel investment.
Ultimately, It’s a Net Benefit
Saving money is of course another positive that can come from a solar panel investment, but in addition to the money you can save, saving the environment is a great bonus. A vast majority of electricity that is used by food trucks is produced by gas powered electric generators. The burning of fossil fuels has been proven to have an adverse effect on the environment, causing global climate change over the past 200 years. Although food trucks are not a huge portion of that problem, eliminating even one gas powered generator is a step towards making our world a safer, healthier, and more sustainable planet.
Now that we have gone over some things to consider before investing in solar panels for your food truck as well as some pro and cons, we hope that you have gained some valuable knowledge about solar powered food trucks. Here at SolarSena we believe that solar power is the future, and we are doing our best to give you information that is relevant for as many different topics as possible. Thanks for reading our guide on solar powered food trucks, we can’t wait to see you again for one of our upcoming articles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you power a food truck with solar panels?
Yes, with the level of solar technology today it is totally possible to have a food truck that is run almost 100% on solar power.
How many solar panels to run a food truck?
The answer to this question depends entirely on what type of food truck you are running. Depending on your energy needs, you might even be able to run your food truck with only one panel, though this is unlikely. In a standard circumstance, you’d need to cover your entire food truck roof with at least 12 or more small solar panels to power your food truck.
How many watts does it take to run a food truck?
As with the previous questions this depends on the type of food truck you are running, but generally speaking most food trucks require around 3000-3500 watts of power for basic food processing appliances.
How to install solar panels on a food truck?
Installing solar panels on your food truck will take some time and energy, but it can be done. You’ll need to understand your power needs, truck design, and gather a foundation in solar panel and appliance connectivity before you can install them. If you’re interested in a case study on this, check out this video.
Cost of solar power food truck?
Assuming you own a food truck already, adding solar panels and converting your power system will at the least cost several thousands of dollars, and that figure could definitely go above $10,000 depending on the size of your food truck or your power needs. But remember, solar panels are investment that pay for themselves over time. You will be saving money every day once they are set up. Understand the life cycle of your business will be critical to determining whether those start-up costs are worth it.