March 1, 2016
Every week on this blog, we discuss the many benefits of solar energy; trust us, we could write about them forever. But the truth of the matter is that installing a solar array is not inherently the right energy management solution for everyone- there are a few factors that may affect how beneficial solar may be to your business. At Solect, we are firm believers that no one should pursue a solar installation if they won’t benefit from it in some way, so this week, we decided to go back to basics and outline for you “The five S’s of going solar” to keep in mind when considering installing a solar (PV) array on your property.
The first thing to keep in mind when considering a solar installation is space: where are you going to put your panels, and how many do you need to make a solar investment worthwhile? Ideal sites include flat, empty roofs to house a traditional array; flat, clear land to house a solar ground mount; or a flat parking lot to house a solar canopy. When considering your available space, also consider your electrical demand. The larger your electric demand, the larger a system you want to install to meet that demand. However, you do not want to over-install solar capacity, as doing so is cost-ineffective and could prevent you from recouping all benefits of your array, dependent on state net metering policies.
Solar PV panels only produce as they should when they are exposed to direct sunlight. If trees, nearby buildings or other structures cause shade over areas where the panels might be placed, they need to be addressed. There are some technical solutions that can be employed to address shade issues, but the best solution is to remove the shade if possible, in order to ensure maximum solar production and therefore benefits.
Going solar involves adding a number of solar panels and racking equipment to your property, so it is important that the property in question is able to support the added weight of the system. An experienced solar developer will employ a structural engineer to approve placing the system on the roof, taking into account load factors and building codes. If your property has an older roof, or you anticipate roof repairs within the life of your solar array, you might want to consider replacing or repairing your roof before installing a solar array. Luckily, some financing options will allow you to include the cost of re-roofing into the cost of your entire solar array.
In the northeast US, the sun travels from East to West across the South, so solar panels are typically fitted on roofs in a “southerly” fashion. The better a building is oriented to the South, the better the panel layout and greater the system production. Design layouts take this into consideration and make the best of the building’s construction, including access to rooftop units or around special roofing or land configurations.
Going solar is a substantial investment. It is important to consider financial factors before taking your property solar. Luckily, there are many financing options available for solar customers, including solutions that require little to no money down. Additionally, the current state and federal incentives make solar an excellent investment, speeding return and allowing businesses to benefit from avoided electricity costs long after recouping costs of installation.
If your property scores positively with the “five S’s,” it might be time to take the next step in your solar pursuits. An experienced solar developer can help to get you started.