Getting up and running with commercial solar power

September 15, 2016

 

AT-A-GLANCE


Step 1: Learn more

Become a thought leader on installing solar

Solar equipmentUnderstanding the pieces and considerations of a commercial solar installation will help you make the best decision for your company. Learning the basic system components is a good first step:

  • Solar panels – Absorb the sun’s rays as a source of energy for generating electricity 
  • Inverter – Converts power generated by solar panels into useable electricity    
  • Meter – Tracks how much electricity is generated, used or fed into the power grid    
  • Balance of system – Includes all components beyond the actual solar panels, including wiring, mounting systems, inverters, switches, battery banks and more

But don’t stop there. A little research can go a long way.

 

Step 2: Build internal support

Share your new solar knowledge with key players

Win stakeholder support by making the benefits of solar relevant to their role. Explain that solar:

People like solar!

 

Step 3: Choose a solar partner

Take time to find the right provider

Not all technologies or partners are the same, and cost may not be the most important factor. Consider the following when selecting a solar provider:

  • What companies need to know about a commercial solar installationIndustry, incentive and policy knowledge
  • Project finance expertise
  • Solar technology quality and performance
  • Warranty and company strength
  • Installation experience
  • Energy production guarantees
  • Service and monitoring options

A well-crafted request for proposal (RFP) that engages key leaders in your company can help you find the best fit for a relationship that should continue for many years.

 

Step 4: Plan your commercial solar system

Make decisions about your installation


WHERE SHOULD YOU PUT YOUR PANELS?

Depending on your site, facilities and energy needs, each type of solar installation has its own strengths and limitations (in addition to varying costs).

  • Rooftop – Consider roof integrity and angle as well as the area’s climate when installing solar panels on commercial buildings. 
  • Ground-mounted – Take advantage of large open spaces, but carefully evaluate ground slope, shade and climate. 
  • Carport – Gain covered parking along with renewable energy, but you need to have an open parking area.


WHAT SIZE SOLAR PANEL SYSTEM DOES YOUR BUSINESS NEED?

Commercial solar financing

In order to determine your appropriate system size, the provider will look at your electricity needs as well as expected solar panel performance. They will likely: 

  • Review a year’s worth of electricity bills to figure out anticipated energy requirements.
  • Calculate electricity costs based on current utility rates and schedules.
  • Take into account panel efficiency and yield, plus irradiance (the rate sunlight hits a surface) to estimate how much energy the solar panels will produce.


WHICH FUNDING OPTION WORKS BEST?

Choose the right commercial solar financing option based on your needs and future plans.

  • Purchase – Enjoy all the benefits of owning a solar installation directly.    
  • Lease – Pay a monthly fee for the solar equipment and benefit from the energy produced. 
  • Power purchase agreement (PPA) – Host a system owned and operated by a third party and buy the solar electricity produced.

Learn more in How businesses and public entities can pay for solar.

 

Final Step: Installation

Work with an experienced, local solar installer who knows about:

  • Their suppliers’ products
  • Relevant product and safety standards
  • Local regulatory requirements, including grid connection
  • Your area’s climate, soil conditions, typical architecture and building materials
  • Installations similar to the one you’re planning

Once your solar installation is complete, begin enjoying the benefits of your solar investment by generating your own clean, renewable energy.

 

Related links:

The four phases of a commercial solar panel installation

The key components of a commercial solar panel warranty

An introduction to net metering: your friend and business partner

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