Business leaders today are turning to renewable energy to power their facilities for many reasons. For some, alternatives like solar energy provide an opportunity to cut expenses. Others choose renewable energy to be a responsible corporate citizen. Some may also go green to cultivate a positive brand image that appeals to many of today’s consumers. If your organization is looking to develop a solar array at your facilities, you may be doing so for one—or all—of these reasons.
Whatever your reason, it isn’t enough to simply throw solar panels on your roof and see what happens. Renewable energy systems are investments. In order to maximize return on the investment, it is critical that you understand how to get the most out of your solar array. Here are some of the key considerations you must make:
Selecting the right array: Choosing the type of solar panels that will most benefit your business requires that you explore the various types of equipment that is available. The cost for the equipment, which includes panels and inverters among other hardware, is a factor. However, the efficiency of the panels can impact near-term costs but also long-term production of the system. Panel placement is another key consideration. Rooftops are a common location but setbacks for fire codes and shade from chimneys or other structures may cut down on usable space. If you have a large parking lot, you could build a carport system. This offers shade and protection from the elements for your employees’ vehicles while generating clean solar power. Large, open spaces are ideal for ground mount solar arrays.
PPA vs. Leasing vs. Buying: A power purchase agreement (PPA) is a common way for businesses to participate in renewable energy. Under a PPA, a solar developer will build, own, operate, and maintain the solar facility on the customer’s roof or property and the customer buys the electricity at an agreed upon price per kWh, like buying from a utility. For some businesses it makes more sense to lease a solar installation than to buy it outright. A lease is a great option for businesses that do not want to invest money upfront or maintain the system over its lifetime. Since the cost of solar equipment has been falling, you may want to consider purchasing the system and, if you do not have the funds for the initial outlay, you may be able to take advantage of financing options that won’t require your business to make an upfront investment. Financing may cost slightly more in the long run, so if your business has the capital and the resources to buy a solar array, you may want to consider doing so.
Finding financial incentives: Businesses that install solar power generation at their facilities may be eligible for rebates, tax credits and other financial incentives. Whether you buy, lease or use a PPA, the financial incentives will greatly impact the cost/benefit analysis of going with solar. Some benefits are offered by the federal government, while others come at the state level. As such, the benefits can vary greatly depending upon where your facilities are located. Consult your tax advisor for more information and check out this website: http://www.dsireusa.org/
Make your business more energy-efficient: As long as you’re considering overhauling some of your facilities’ systems, you may want to consider looking at energy efficiency upgrades as well. Legacy lighting systems, outdated HVAC systems and poor insulation, may negate the benefits of your solar array. Even if you have updated some of these systems in the past few years, new technology may already make those changes inefficient and updating could pay for itself in the energy that is saved.
To learn more about selecting a solar array for your business, check out ConEdison Solutions here.