Commercial solar energy checklist
One of the comments I hear a lot from prospective customers is that they ‘get’ the financial and environmental benefits of installing a commercial solar energy system but they think it’s an unduly complex undertaking. In fact, over the past decade, the process has become fairly streamlined, from initial energy analysis to financing, installation, and system turn-up.
That said, I don’t want to minimize the importance of taking into account all relevant factors when you’re trying to decide if solar is right for your business. So I’ve created a brief checklist that calls out the key considerations:
1. Current energy usage & cost
Will solar make a difference for your business? The size of your system is generally based on your energy consumption, and your usage patterns. What are you currently paying for electricity (per kilowatt hour, or annually)? Consider your energy needs and business routines; what processes account for the largest usage? You need to examine at least one year of electric bills as a starting point.
Solar panels work best when they’re placed on large, shade-free spaces such as pitched or flat rooftops. Ground-mounted systems work well if you have large open fields or parking/vacant lots. We’ve even installed solar arrays on covered walkways and incorporated them into a building’s façade to take advantage of all available space and retain the building’s design. How old is your roof? Since it can be costly to temporarily relocate rooftop solar property, and the useful life of solar equipment is typically 20-30 years, consider the timing of a solar installation in conjunction with any roof replacements.
3. Facility ownership
Do you own your building or lease it? Who pays the costs of electricity? Does the building owner or individual tenants pay directly for electric usage? Who controls access to the roof?
4. Budget & financing
Understand your budget. How much are you willing to invest in your energy future? What financing options are available? Between federal and state tax incentives, you can often cover up to 65% of the cost of a commercial solar installation and finance the rest at very attractive interest rates. And ROI on solar projects is typically around 14%.
5. Excess energy sellback
Most businesses that install a solar energy system end up producing more electricity than they need. One reason for solar energy’s attractive ROI is the ability to sell back that excess electricity to your local utility company.
5. Choosing the right solar energy solutions partner
The most common concern I hear from prospective customers is about managing their solar project. They don’t want to deal with finding incentives and financing, purchasing materials, handling installation, training, monitoring, and connecting to their local utility. The answer is to use a turnkey solar solutions partner who can handle every aspect of the project from A-Z. Here’s what to look for:
- Comprehensive energy analysis – extensive—and free—energy analysis that looks at no less than one year’s electric bills and usage.
- Project management – experience in systems integration and commercial project management, with a demonstrated track record of delivering projects on budget and on time. The company should be well versed in local and national building codes, and detailed reporting and organization.
- Engineering – an in-house design and engineering team who can handle any technical or design challenge. They should understand utility interconnection options and system configuration.
- Incentive procurement and fulfillment – emphasis on securing incentives BEFORE starting your project, to minimize your financial risk. They should have dedicated resources to ensure that your project complies with state, federal and utility company incentives (including reporting).
- Financial analysis – a comprehensive financial analysis that accurately determines the timing and tax implications of all cash flows associated with your project.
- Certifications/qualifications – a diverse skill set, with appropriate academic qualifications and industry certifications. For example, our company includes architects, chemical engineers, industrial engineers, designers, project managers, and we are certified by the North American Board of Certified Solar Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
Installing a solar energy system for your business isn’t the easiest thing you’ll ever do, but working with the right partner can minimize complexity and help you take advantage of one of the smartest investments you can make for now and for the future. Click here to find out how to get a free energy analysis from Inman Solar, your turnkey solar energy partner.