Solar Pergolas & Gazebos On The Rise: The Hidden Gem of Solar (Why & How)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | April 1, 2024

Woman considers a solar panel pergola while looking at one and thinking about a solar panel gazebo and if there is a diy solar pergola guide that explains solar pergola installations for backyard solar panels off grid power.

Renewable energy from solar panel pergola is enticing homeowners towards this innovative system that offers a smoother, and alternative option for adopting solar power.

This ‘hidden gem’ of solar energy not only provides a beautiful and functional outdoor living space, the energy you garner can power part or all of your home and possibly lower your additional utility bills.

Plus, when you construct a solar pergola or solar gazebo, you can take advantage of tax credits that reduce your taxable income.

Rather than having photovoltaic panels and your solar energy system attached to an older roofing structure that may or may not be up to the task, pergolas and gazebos offer flexibility in location and plenty of relaxation benefits.

Whether or not your solar panel pergola can generate the electricity you need for your entire home will depend on a number of specifics, but this complete guide explains how you can implement this rising technology and why doing so can have a big impact on your household’s emissions.

Pergola Roof Panels (Solar Panel Gazebo)

As a renewable energy source, sunlight is inexhaustible, clean, and more than capable of providing all the energy a household requires.

But harnessing and converting that energy requires some space.

Rooftops are generally the location of choice for solar panels, but there are drawbacks that can affect how well the solar panels operate that range from:

  • The condition of the roof
  • The direction the roof is facing
  • The angle of the roof
  • The installation costs
  • Additional equipment (solar panel racking)
  • Possible leaks
  • Unsightly

Invisible integration is virtually impossible on rooftops and can be noticed for miles.

Some people find this off-putting, the aesthetics of their home marred even as the installation of solar panels adds value to their homes.

A massive solar panel pergola built on the coastal area.

(Image: 199712)


The option of having a solar panel pergola with an equal amount of power output as rooftop solar energy system is an alternative that can often be seamlessly incorporated to the landscape of the home.

Solar Panel Pergola (Solar Patio Cover) Options

There are several ways that a pergola or gazebo can be the support structure to hold new pergola roof panels, or if a new one would need to be built

On an existing structure, whether there are just open beams or an actual roof system, solar panels can be fitted as long as the weight of the panels won’t buckle the beams supporting the entire lean-to.1

Each traditional panel weighs approximately 17-20 lbs (7-9 kgs) and most average houses require 17-21 panels to cater to their full electricity requirements. A pergola has a weight rating of 250 and 300lbs (110-136 kgs) so would, maybe, just support the weight of 20 panels if it was large enough to hold that many.

There are types of solar panels that are micro-thin and weigh next to nothing which may suffice in relation to the weight-bearing capacity of the pergola. The power output would be sacrificed, however, so the intended household appliances to be run from the electricity generated by these solar panels would have to be carefully considered before choosing them.

Related Reading: Why Is Solar Energy Bad? Solar Panels’ Environmental Impact (Toxic, Dangerous)

If the pergola currently attached to your property is in the ideal position for maximum daily sunlight exposure and is strong enough to support excess weight, then you’re good to go.

Call round for a few quotes, calculate how many panels will be needed for your soon-to-be solar panel pergola, and join the renewable revolution. Or, if in doubt, demolish the old wooden pergola that has been there since time began and build a newer, sturdier one.

Pergola Kits and Material Prices

So the decision has been made to go with the flat roof pergolas roof route and to build a new one that will be stronger and hold more panels. To keep costs down, why not build it yourself?

Bar graph of Price Comparisons of Pergola Kits Per Size and Type of Wood showing the types of wood on the x-axis and prices on the y-axis.

Pergola kits are available for purchase from many companies and even in stores. The prices vary considerably due to size, design, and material, but will still be more economical than hiring a professional to construct one for your specific, unique design.

Here are a few price comparisons for pergola kits in two types of wood, cedar, and pine, and also made out of vinyl.2

Pergola size Material Price per Square Foot Price
10×10 pergola Cedar $30-$35 $3,000 – $3,500
10×10 pergola Pine $25 $2,500
10×10 pergola Vinyl $10-$25 $1,000 – $1,500
10×12 pergola Cedar $30-$35 $3,600 – $4,200
10×12 pergola Pine $25 $3,000
10×12 pergola Vinyl $10-$25 $1,200 – $3,000
10×16 pergola Cedar $30-$35 $4,800 – $5,600
10×16 pergola Pine $25 $4,000
10×16 pergola Vinyl $10-$25 $1,600 – $4,000
12×12 pergola Cedar $30-$35 $4,320 and $5,040
12×12 pergola Pine $25 $3,600
12×12 pergola Vinyl $10-$25 $1,440 – $3,600
16×32 pergola Cedar $30-$35 $15,,360 – $17,920
16×32 pergola Pine $25 $12,800
16×32 pergola Vinyl $10-$25 $5,120 – $12,800
20×20 pergola Cedar $30-$35 $12,000 – $14,000
20×20 pergola Pine $25 $10,000
20×20 pergola Vinyl $10-$25 $4,000 – $10,000

Prices can vary considerably not just by material and size choices, but by designs as well. The more basic the models, the cheaper the price. More complex designs with different accessories and add-ons can significantly increase the final price.

Two other material options are aluminum and fiberglass, with the former priced at $20 per square foot and fiberglass the most expensive at $60 per square foot.

These modular kits present a catalog of choices and sizes to fit seamlessly against any home or into any sized backyard, and to turn any one of them into a solar panel pergola.

But if your location or garden won’t accommodate either the sizes available or the designs are not up to your standards, what are your options?

Perhaps it’s just that you want a custom design to complement the structure of your house, or the kit size would need to be adapted radically to be the new carport for your EV vehicle.

If any of these describe your situation, self-build might be a better solution.

How To Build a Pergola (DIY Pergola)

One of the first things to consider is if a permit is going to be required and then the load-bearing capacity of the pergola to be built.3

It has to be functional, with strong support columns that can effortlessly prop up the heavy lattice roof beams and, of course, the solar panels.

A house with a solar panel pergola made of wood.

(Image: Lasigro9)

Wood is the most common material, with expensive cedar and redwood being the most popular, but pressure-treated pine and maintenance-free vinyl being more wallet-friendly.

After the location is chosen that receives the most sunlight, ensure that the surface is solid and flat and follow these steps.

First, make sure to obtain the proper permits or licensing needed to build the structure.

(Note: Do not attempt to build your own solar panel pergola without the proper tools or construction drawings and specifications. The following steps are guidelines only)

  1. Measure and mark out where the 4 pillars need to be positioned and cut them to size
  2. Secure 4 post supports in each corner with masonry bolts or screw the pillars into steel pillar supports. If digging a hole, prop up the pillars and use a spirit level to check that they are vertical. Pour the postcrete around the base and allow it to dry.
  3. Re-use spirit level to check that there has not been any movement.
  4. Measure and cut the front and back beams to size. Screw them into position with coach bolts for additional strength
  5. Use treated wood for the rafters. Evenly space them out along the beams, double-checking that the overhang is identical all the way. Secure them in place with screws
  6. For extra weather protection, either paint or stain the wood

Once the pergola is finished, how to install solar panels on roof can be left to the professionals.

Hardtop Gazebo (Solar Pergola Installations)

Constructing the roof of a gazebo requires a little more work and know-how than flat roof pergolas or flat roof solar panel, so many homeowners prefer to purchase the structure in its entirety and assemble it themselves.

Erecting the pillars will be the same as the pergola installations, and once the full structure is erected, the solar panels can be incorporated into the roof to start capturing sunlight and begin the process of energy conversion into electricity.Some homeowners appreciate the bare structure of the solar panels to be on display from inside the pergola or gazebo, while others prefer them to be hidden.

Nailing or screwing slats between the beams will provide the appearance of a standard ceiling and help to reinforce the structure of the panels.

Then it’s just a matter of screwing the solar panels into position and connecting them to the inverter and the battery system.4

And just like that you have a solar panel pergola.

Cars parked under a solar panel pergola.

(Image: Kindel Media11)

To make it even more comfortable and user-friendly for day and night usage, consider hiring an electrician to install lights and plug sockets.

Solar Pergola Shade Structures

When fitting solar panels on top of rafters spanning a pergola, the by-product is the shade created beneath it, a space perfect for an afternoon drink or a barbecue. A well-placed pergola is like an open-air extension to the house and creates an outdoor living space.

Once the solar panels have been fitted to the beams, the view from beneath adds a special ambiance that is hard to find in other rooms.

In addition, due to the very nature of the panels to absorb sunlight, the shade cast beneath it has been measured to be approximately 5° cooler than if the roof was constructed from a different material.

Photovoltaic panels have also been tested and have been found to be good insulators in winter, keeping the heat in.5 Not relevant in an open-sided pergola, but if the sides were ever enclosed it would be useful information to know on a wintry night.

Backyard Solar Panels (Solar Panel Pergola)

There are additional advantages to having a solar panel pergola apart from the ease of installation, and that comes in the form of the Residential Clean Energy Credit for installing photovoltaics.

Graphics of advantage of solar pergola showing a list of solar pergola advantages and a diagram of solar pergola system.

This is a federal assistance solar tax credit program that rewards homeowners with a 30% tax reduction off the cost of their system, including carports, pergolas, and gazebos. A DIY project may not qualify for the credits so seek professional advice from a tax attorney before starting.

The tax credit started in late 2022 and has a time limit on it with certain requisites to qualify

  • The 30% deduction started in 2022
  • Will be reduced to 26% in 2033
  • Will be further reduced to 22% in 2034
  • To qualify the solar panels must be owned by you (Leasing the solar equipment will not make you eligible for the deductions)
  • You must be working and have a taxable income
  • The solar panels have to be either at your first or second primary residence
  • The credit has to be claimed on the original installation
  • A solar battery storage system qualifies for this credit as long as they are to be connected to the solar system

And there are more initiatives for solar-photovoltaics thanks to utility companies.6 They offer rebates which are subtracted immediately from the price of the entire solar panel quotation, including the cost of the installation.

A price reduction on this scale can be very evident when installing patio solar panels on a small pergola that is going to be built from the ground up.

Small Pergola or Garden Pergola, Tax Credits and Rebates

If there is an amount of available space either next to your house that would make a great patio area, or a section of the garden that you would like to transform into a relaxation zone, then now is the right time to build a solar panel pergola.

Here’s why.

According to the government, if the pergola or gazebo has already been constructed years ago or even months ago, they will not qualify for any solar tax credits.

But as long as they are going to be on your property and the solar panels are going to be installed at the same time, you will be able to benefit from the generous deductions. Utility companies are also giving rebates of $1,000 which will work in your favor immediately.

This is because the 30% tax credit from the federal government will then be based on the price listed on the quotation minus the $1000 rebate.

So if the initial cost were  $15,000, the difference would look like this:

$15,000 minus 30% federal discount = $10,500

$15,00 minus $1000 utility rebate = $14,000 minus 30% = $9,800

Some states also offer rebates and initiatives that will reduce the initial price which would make your solar installation even cheaper. The key is to verify all the information and research what tax incentives you may be eligible for. After all, why pay more for your new clean energy when you don’t have to?7

Related Reading: Pros and Cons of Solar Energy (& When The Disadvantages Outweigh Benefits)

Solar Panel for Shed

Sometimes it can be a monumental hassle to get electric power to a solar panel for shed at the bottom of a long garden.

It’s either going to involve expensive digging, cabling, and employing an electrician to hook it all up to the house’s power supply.

All just to connect power tools and machinery that only sees any action on a weekend.

Photo taken under the solar panel pergola partially blocking the sunlight.

(Image: Max D10)

So imagine how much easier it would be to affix a few solar panels to the roof to have a steady supply of electricity on tap without having to rip up the lawn. The possibility of attaching one panel to the roof to provide enough electricity for lighting and to charge a couple of mobile devices is altering the business model of the shed industry, and they have adapted to the increasing demand.

Selling solar panels as an integrated accessory is boosting sales as savvy buyers are constantly on the lookout for any additional features that will make life easier. And for some of them, the greener aspect of integrated solar panels is even more of a reason to buy.

The flexibility, and affordability of solar panels, are making them appealing in other varied situations, not just on a solar panel pergola or a gazebo. Carports, garages, and even greenhouses have benefited from either standard or amorphous panels which are extremely thin and flexible.

Solar Panel Pergola Advantage

A typical pergola has an open-air roof structure that offers no protection from the elements, just an area mainly used during the summer months.

With the addition of solar panels which are not only functional in producing clean electricity, but are waterproof and cast a cooling shade on the area below, milder winters can be enjoyed even though there are no walls.

Plus, you can take advantage of significant saving by using solar panels on any new structure you construct.

Climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, employing carbon offsets, and the drive for renewable sustainable energy sources are making building a solar panel pergola more popular than ever.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Solar Panel Pergola

How Much Do Professional Pergola Builders Charge?

Their prices range from $20–$50 per square foot.

Is Permission Required To Build a Pergola or Gazebo?

Typically, if the structure will host people, it’s always wise to have construction drawings and local permits to build. Since a pergola or gazebo may need footings, you also should “call before you dig” in your state to have the underground lines marked.

Can Money Be Saved On a DIY Pergola?

When self-building a solar panel pergola, utilizing a wall that is already in place instead of pillars will save on material costs.

When Is The Best Time To Get a Professional To Build a Pergola or Gazebo?

The off-season is the best time to get quotes and install a pergola as discounts are often available when work has slowed down for construction companies.

Are There Rebates For Solar Installation for Homeowners?

Any homeowners considering installing solar panels or any form of clean energy system should contact their local authority and inquire on government websites for what incentives are available.8


1U.S. Department of Energy. Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

2Oklahoma State University. (2018, December). Fundamental Aspects of Heat Treated Wood. OSU Extension. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

3City of Seattle. Do You Need a Permit? Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

4U.S. Department of Energy. (n.d.). Planning a Home Solar Electric System. Energy Saver. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

5University of California. (2011, July 18). Solar Panels Keep Buildings Cool. Jacobs School of Engineering. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <,heating%20costs%20in%20the%20winter>

6U.S. Department of Energy. (2023, March). Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

7The White House. Clean Energy For All – President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act Is The Most Aggressive Climate Action In U.S. History. The White House. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <> Oregon Solar + Storage Rebate Program: Homeowners. Oregon Department of Energy. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

905 foto piossasco Photo by Lasigro / Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

10Solar Pergola, Barcelona Photo by Max D / Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <>

11Photo by Kindel Media. Pexels. Retrieved from <>

12Photovoltaic panel at the Forum, Barcelona Photo by 1997 / Public Domain. From Wikimedia Commons <>