Commercial Solar Guide
Why Your Business Should Consider Solar
If you're trying to reduce your business's power bills, commercial solar for your business may be a viable option. Bear in mind that if you have a shop or place of business attached to your residence, It’s still categorized as a residential solar installation unless it has a separate meter. When our inside consultants set a commercial solar appointment, the process is different: For example, while credit scores are generally required to qualify for appointments and residential solar installation, credit plays no role in the qualification for solar installs.
Adding solar to your business decreases your company's carbon footprint. It also lowers your electricity bills. However, when it comes to adding solar to your business, there are many factors to consider. Making the transition to a greener business model takes forethought and planning. Some things to consider when deciding if solar is a good fit for your business include evaluating your available space, determining your financial situation, and assessing the area's solar incentives. If these three factors make sense for your business, then adding solar should be a no-brainer. However, getting to this point isn't always easy. If you can't find what you're looking for on this home base for commercial solar, see our Commercial Solar Blogs.
Commercial Solar Qualifications
When our inside consultants get in touch with you to see whether your building qualifies, they have you have four objectives:
Verify an Address
Get a Copy of Your Power Bill
Verify Length of Time in Business
Cover Any Relevant Shading Issues that Could Impact Module Production
Once your inside consultant has a copy of the power bill for your business, they'll call the utility company and ask for their rate schedule (there are roughly 25 different rate schedules for commercial jobs, in some cases, for just one utility company), and we design your commercial solar assessment based on this rate schedule, which is important as it'll show you how much your business can save.
Evaluating Your Space for Commercial Solar
The first step to determining whether your business space is a good fit is to look at the area you have to work with and the energy usage of the building. The energy usage of the building over a year will tell the solar installer how much electricity your solar array would need to produce. Once the necessary solar array size is determined, it's time to consider whether you have the space for it. The average commercial solar panel has 96 cells and takes up 78 by 39 inches. These dimensions don't include the added space that hardware and solar mounting codes add.
Determining Commercial Solar Financial Viability
If your business has the space to accommodate the system it needs, it's time to look at whether the company is in a financial situation to add solar. While adding solar doesn't cost anything extra, it is an investment, and owning the property it's installed on is required.
Assessing The Area's Solar Incentives
Some states have solar incentives that sweeten the deal. Other states have utilities with solar policies that make solar only worth it if you don't care about savings. Looking at the area's Utility solar metering policy will give a good idea of whether they support commercial solar installations. Additionally, state solar incentives are also worth knowing.
Decreasing Your Carbon Footprint
Now that you've determined that solar is a good fit for your company, it's time to consider the impact it will make on your carbon footprint. Go Solar Group shows each potential customer the estimated carbon emission offset of their solar array. We also have solar monitoring that shows how much carbon emissions the system is currently offsetting. Solar arrays can help businesses reach zero-carbon or carbon-negative goals. A Zero-carbon business offsets as much carbon emissions as it releases. A Carbon negative business removes more than it releases.
Assessing Solar Savings
While adding solar to a business does minimize pollution, most companies install solar because of the monetary savings that an installation will receive over the system's lifetime. Firstly, solar reduces electricity bills. Secondly, incentives can decrease the cost of solar even more for businesses.
Commercial Solar Pros & Cons
While Go Solar Group does not actively target commercial solar projects, we are equipped with the knowledge and technology to complete commercial solar projects for prospects who come to us.
Commercial Solar Positives
Commercial solar makes sense for almost all businesses but makes the most sense for businesses that Own their buildings and have steady cash flow.
Solar Business Write Off
Businesses are able to write off 100% of their solar expenses in the first year if they own their properties. To qualify for this write-off, the building owner must work with the city jurisdiction and financing company to pay a contractor to complete the install. Then they complete an assessment that will be paid back on property taxes. In commercial solar, the financing is based on the building, not the business’s financials, as one might assume.
Federal Solar Tax Credit (ITC)
Prospect must own the building to qualify
Businesses that tend to be able to qualify based solely on building ownership are Chiropractors, dentists, orthodontists, medical businesses, law practices
Commercial Solar Negatives
If your business is a non-profit like a school or church, you won't have a tax liability and it will likely not be worth it.
You can’t rent the space and qualify for the credit.
Solar doesn't provide power at night without solar storage
Not all solar panels are high quality
It requires a large amount of unshaded space
The initial cost of solar is high and often requires a payment plan
Commercial Solar Components
Commercial System Types
There are several commercial solar installation types to consider. The best type depends on the location of the installation. These different solar installation types include carports, flat-roof systems, slanted-roof systems, ground systems, and tracker systems. Look for a solar installer that offers the right installation type for your available space and the best deal.
Commercial Grade Solar Panels
Because commercial solar installations require more electricity, commercial solar panels are generally larger, so they can produce more power per solar panel. While these solar panels naturally produce more electricity per panel because of their size, they also have better cell efficiency than the average residential solar panel.
Inverters for Commercial Solar
An inverter converts the direct current (DC) produced by the solar panels into alternating current (AC), making it usable for most applications. There are several inverter types. However, central inverters are typical for commercial and utility applications. A quality inverter will not only convert the current type but do it efficiently, so more power is available for use. It is best to look for an inverter set up that will give as close to a 1 to 1 power rating ratio as the solar array as possible. Go Solar Group uses the HiQ 5KW inverter, which is the size of a laptop (much smaller than the Sunny Boy and SolarEdge we use for residential) and is positioned beneath the solar panels.
Steps For a Smooth Commerical Solar Installation
1. Comparing Commercial Solar Quotes
Deciding on a solar company can become a lengthy process. However, to get the best product at a competitive price, it's necessary. When looking for a commercial solar installer, make sure to compare the product offered and not just the price point. The solar product quality will determine if a higher price is merited.
2. Commercial Solar Site Evaluation and Planning
Solar companies often look at satellite footage and solar measuring software to determine a solar quote and the potential difficulty of the project. However, once you've decided on a solar installer, they should come out and evaluate the proposed installation spot in person. This step in the process helps the installer to determine if any issues need addressing before installing. It also allows them to verify computer-generated measurements. These verified measurements then go to the solar engineer who plans the solar project.
3. Acquiring Proper Approvals
After completing the solar project plans, the solar installer needs proper approvals before they can do anything. The permitting process is different for each area. However, generally, the city and the utility have to give their stamp of approval before moving past the system evaluation and planning stage.
4. System Installation
Once the necessary permits are in hand, the installer can schedule the installation. The time it takes to install the array depends on the system size, the number of installers installing it and the installation complexity.
5. City and Utility Solar Inspections
After installing the solar array, the city and utility inspect the system to ensure it meets their standards. First, the city inspector comes out and checks the system. After they give their stamp of approval, the utility interconnection request is submitted, and the utility inspector switches out the old meter for a solar meter.
6. Activating the System and Solar Monitoring
Once installed and approved the system is ready to start running. Either the installer will come out and turn the array on or they will walk the business through the process. Additionally, most systems also have a monitoring app that allows both the installer and the owner to see the solar production and efficiency of the system. It can also show the customer how much money and carbon dioxide they have saved.
Commercial Solar Payment Programs
Because the initial cost of solar is more than most can pay upfront, several different payment program options are available for business owners. These financial avenues include cash purchase, PACE, a lease or PPA and solar loans.
Paying for Commercial Solar in Cash
When financially possible, the business should purchase solar outright. Paying in cash allows the business owner to reap the benefits of solar from the start without paying anything extra. Owning solar outright saves the business owner the most in the long run. However, the initial costs are significantly higher.
The Role of PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) in Solar for Business
PACE stands for Property-assessed clean energy. It helps business owners finance solar through their local government. The owner pays for the system through increased property taxes, and PACE secures the property assessment with a lien on the property.
Solar Lease or PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) for Commercial Solar?
Whether you sign a lease or a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), you have essentially entered into a solar renting situation. This financing option gives the system ownership to the solar company instead of the business owner, meaning your business can't take advantage of any solar incentives.
Solar Loans for Businesses
Loans enable the company to own the system without needing the cash all at once. This option also allows businesses to take advantage of solar incentives, making this payment option the second-best choice in most cases. It's best to shop around for the best interest rates. However, if you don't want to find the perfect lender, most solar companies have financing partners to help simplify the process.