If you’re trying to cut energy costs, installing solar panels on your commercial building might be a great way to go. You could reduce your carbon footprint while potentially generating some money through lower electricity bills and net metering programs. However, the upfront cost can be high, and the process could damage your commercial roof if not done correctly.
If you’re hesitant about committing to commercial solar power installation or feel you need a little more information before you do so, we can help.
Your Commercial Solar Systems FAQs Answered
When business owners consider the switch to renewable energy, they often ask the same questions. Let’s cover all the basics about installing a solar power system – from available tax incentives and on-site surveys to the risks of improper solar system installation.
Can Solar Power Cover My Commercial Property’s Energy Needs?
You may be worried that solar panels can’t provide enough energy to actually lower your operating costs. It’s true; commercial solar projects vary in how much electricity they produce. Commercial photovoltaic (PV) panels typically have 72 solar cells and generate 2kWh of electricity per day, so how much power you generate depends on how many panels you have in your solar array.
Your industry and peak hours of operation also affect whether or not solar panels can cover all your energy needs. Office buildings often find all of their needs met easily by a commercial solar system, but industries that run heavy-duty machinery may still need to use some traditional electricity. Businesses that also have increased energy needs in the evenings or operate overnight may not find all of their energy needs completely met by their solar power system.
How Much Can Solar Power Save Me on Utility Bills?
The amount of money you save by installing a solar panel system varies across locations and industries. The size of your system, the amount of sun it gets, and your peak hours of energy need and operation can all affect how much you save.
Many businesses can lower their energy costs by 80% or more. Plus, some that produce extra power can receive funds or tax credits through net metering programs.
What Incentives Exist to Lower Solar Panel System Costs?
You can increase your return on investment by lowering the upfront cost of your commercial solar panel system. The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a nationwide incentive offered to businesses and residents that switch to a solar energy solution. With it, you can deduct 30% of the overall cost of your solar panel installation.
In addition to the federal tax credit, there may also be local rebates and incentives for installing solar panels on your commercial property. Some states offer solar tax credits for homeowners and small businesses that install solar panels.
What Is the Commercial Solar Panel Installation Process?
When you contact a solar installer, arrange for a site assessment. During this period, contractors visit your commercial property to measure your roof and assess its conditions. Before or during this site survey, it’s helpful to have professional roofing contractors attend to conduct a roof inspection.
After the survey, your solar installer will design your system as you begin the permitting process. Getting permits is the longest part of the process and can take up to four months or more, depending on how quickly your local government offices work.
Once the permitting process is complete, installation can begin. Installation can take about a day, depending on the size of your solar system. If you have a larger system, it may take an additional day, but overall, installation is relatively quick.
After the solar panels are installed, your city will do a final inspection before you are connected. Once you pass the city inspection, you need to send the city’s approval and a solar billing application to the utility company.
And then, that’s it! Your commercial solar panel installation is complete.
How Are Commercial Solar Panels Installed?
While there are ground-mounted solar arrays, typically, the panels are mounted on the roof. There are a few different types of mounting systems used in solar panel installation depending on the needs of the solar project, taking into account the size and type of the building.
Rack Mounting Systems
The rack mounting method is typically used for residential homes. Aluminum rails are attached to the roof, and the solar panels are attached to the rail.
Ballasted Mounting System
Commercial flat roofs are more likely to use a ballasted mounting system. For this kind of installation, no penetrations into your roofing material are necessary. Instead, the weight of the solar panels keeps the system in place. The ballasts are made of heavy materials like concrete, which help them resist being pulled away by strong winds.
Penetrating mounts are typically used for sloped roofs and involve penetrating the roofing material, flashing, and waterproofing, which attaches the panels directly to the roofing material.
For this method of solar panel installation, the solar panels are integrated directly into the roofing material. Roof-integrated models involve a specialized manufacturing process where the roofing material is blended with the solar panels.
Adjustable Tilt Mounts
Adjustable tilt mounts are made of rails and racks that feature pivot points that allow you to change the tilt of the solar array. The racks are typically attached by penetrating the roofing material into the structural foundation of the roof.
Some solar arrays are designed to automatically follow the sun’s movement through the sky. These mounts are built with controllers and sensors that can determine what tilt will maximize sun exposure. While this may increase your energy savings, these can be pretty costly to install.
Can Solar Energy Systems Damage Your Roof?
Solar panel systems can cause complications for your roofing system. Improper installation, especially for mounts that penetrate the roofing material, can create small leaks that can grow into larger problems over time.
Even if you’re using a ballasted mount, the weight of the panels can cause stress to your roofing system, especially if your roof is nearing the end of its lifespan or is already structurally weak.
Since solar panels absorb heat, they can also grow very hot. If the solar array is in direct contact with your roofing material, it may cause materials that are sensitive to heat to crack or melt. It’s important to make sure that your roofing material is up to the task before installing your commercial solar power system.
Moisture can also get between your solar panels and your roof, which could cause rot and water damage depending on your roofing material.
Keep Commercial Solar Installation From Causing Depreciation
Sustainability is important, but you want to make sure that you’re also sustaining your commercial roof. Saving money on electricity costs won’t help your bottom line if you’re spending all the cash flow on a new roof.
Commercial solar energy is a great choice for property owners looking for cheaper utility rates, but the smartest property owners also make sure their PV system isn’t going to damage their building. And with a little expert help, you can do the same.
When contacting a solar company to do an on-site survey, it’s also good to hire a roofing contractor to do a roof inspection. It’s also a good idea to have professional roofing contractors on sight during your commercial solar power installation to ensure your roofing system isn’t damaged.
Partner With TEMA When Switching to Solar
If you’re switching to commercial solar energy but worried about your roof, TEMA is here to help. We’ll work with your solar company to make sure that your roofing structure can withstand commercial solar power installation and oversee the process to make sure the roof is kept safe. Contact us today to get your solar project started with no risk to your roof.