Solar power is not only reserved for the residential sector or utilities looking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
There are some major advantages for a business to implement solar power at their business premises.
Of course as always you need to do your homework and due diligence to determine the level of benefits.
Here we look at how solar power can benefit your business and what you need to be aware of. We also look at the recommended process to follow.
After all, investing in solar is a big decision to make, so you want to be sure it’s right for you.
Why Your Business Needs Solar
In recent years, the cost of electricity has been skyrocketing. Due to increasing demand in electricity and oil prices, there appears to be no stopping the cost of energy.
This increases the operating costs of businesses, who then have to pass these costs onto their customers. In an ever-competitive economy, this isn’t always possible.
Companies have to find new ways of being more competitive and reducing their operating costs. Investing in solar will reduce your energy input costs and hedge against future electricity price increases.
Solar power is no longer an expensive investment—with decreasing technology costs and lucrative government subsidies, it actually makes financial sense to go solar.
Solar PV systems are a reliable technology with limited maintenance. Once up and running, there is little maintenance required. Apart from annual checkups and cleaning of the solar panels, there is little else to do.
Solar panels have a lifespan of over 25 years and even then still produce clean electricity. To put this into perspective, the world's first solar panel is still producing electricity after 60 years! Good quality reliable inverters should also last around 10 years and the better quality ones last even longer.
Improving your company’s green credentials is yet another reason to invest in solar. Companies are finding themselves increasingly under pressure from both their customers and government to reduce their carbon emissions. Investing in solar will assist your business in achieving its carbon emissions reduction goals.
6 Tips for Going Solar
Solar isn’t for every business, but you won’t know unless you do your homework upfront. A fair amount of planning and upfront work is required before considering if it’s worth investing in solar power.
It’s worth investing in a pre-feasibility study by a qualified professional that will ensure all variables will be taken into account. The output of the pre-feasibility study or business case will ascertain the tangible benefits of installing a PV system and determine the viability of it.
Here we look at six very important aspects to take into account. However, this list is by no means exhaustive. There are a lot more other variables that need to be taken into account but should form part of a pre-feasibility study.
1. Is Your Roof Suitable?
This is probably the first thing to investigate before taking any other steps, as if your roof isn’t suited for solar power then there’s probably no point in moving forward. Important variables that impact whether or not your roof premises are suited for solar panels or not are the following:
First thing is to check if your roof is structurally sound—can it support the extra weight of solar panels? If your roof is old or not suited for solar panels, then it’s probably worth replacing the roof before considering PV. Remember that solar PV panels have a lifetime of over 20 years, so you need to ensure your roof will still be standing by that stage!
For solar installations in the Southern Hemisphere, the optimal direction installation of solar panels is True North. So your roof should be facing as close to North as possible, although decent solar output can be achieved with an East and West configuration too.
Shading is bad news for solar panels! Shading can originate from trees, other buildings or roof obstructions. Shading severely reduces solar panel output so should be avoided as much as possible. As an example, if your roof is covered by shade most of the time by the building next door then going the solar route won’t be an option.
However, if your roof is impacted by shade due to a nearby tree then one can consider trimming the tree or cutting it down to eradicate shading.
2. Energy Efficiency
Investing in solar power before optimising your business processes is kind of like putting the cart before the horse! Focus on reducing your energy consumption first by investing in energy-efficient technologies such as LED lighting, solar thermal, VSD’s, etc.
Once your business has been fine tuned and operating at maximum efficiency, then invest in solar power.
Not only will this reduce your solar PV system size requirements but also reduce the amount you need to invest in solar. As a result, less roof space will also be required!
3. Roof Space
The other thing to consider is if you have sufficient roof space for a solar PV system. If you’re running an energy-intensive business process out of a garage, then the chances are you won’t have sufficient roof space for an adequately sized rooftop PV system.
It goes without saying that the higher your energy consumption, the larger the PV system you will require.
Large solar PV systems require a lot of roof space! The amount of roof space you require will also depend on the level of solar irradiation for your location and the efficiency of the solar panel being installed. Higher efficiency panels require less rooftop space.
So if rooftop real estate is a premium, then it might be worth considering higher efficiency panels such as monocrystalline panels.
4. Follow the Leaders
Some Fortune 500 companies have truly been global leaders in implementing clean energy technologies and continue to do so. Let’s take a look at a few that have invested in solar power and what they have achieved to date.
Google has achieved the status of being the world's largest corporate buyer of renewable power.
A total of 2,600 MW globally, including both wind and solar energy, that’s 2.6 GW! Back in 2010 they signed a contract to purchase all the electricity from a 114-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, USA.
In 2017, Google achieved the status of running all their operations including data centres and offices off 100% renewable energy!
Apple recently opened its new HQ in California in what looks like a doughnut, but the aesthetics aren’t the only thing unique about this building.
The building includes an energy-efficient design, making it a green building. It also has a whopping 17 MW solar PV rooftop system installed.
The Americans usually go big and this is no exception. The 17 MW rooftop PV system is one of the largest in the world.
75% of the site’s power requirements will be generated by its own microgrid, including installed fuel cells.
5. Demand Load Profile
Whether or not solar power is ideal for your business again depends on a number of different variables.
A very important aspect is to determine the business premises’ demand load profile. Does the business conduct most of its business operations during the day or evening, and what about weekends?
If your solar power system produces clean electricity during the day, you want to be sure your energy demand load profile matches your solar PV output as much as possible.
A good example of this would be an office park, as it starts operating during the morning, normally peaks around midday and then tapers off as the afternoon progresses. This demand profile would very much mimic the yield profile of a solar PV system.
Cold storage facilities benefit from solar power greatly, as they tend to have a very high baseload and typically have a flat demand load profile throughout the day. Cold storage facilities normally also have plenty of roof space. So a large solar PV system can be installed to reduce the cold storage’s energy consumption significantly.
6. FIT and TOU
Something else to consider is the utility tariff rate you are on and how much you are paying per kWh. The higher your tariff rates, the more you will benefit from solar power. Also consider what type of tariff rate you are on, such as TOU, as this will impact the ROI and payback period on your solar PV system.
Any excess energy that is produced and not used is exported to the grid. Energy consumers are usually offered financial incentives in the form of a feed-in tariff. The feed-in tariff most of the time is lower than the retail price of electricity, but it still does play a role in the ROI of the system
Net metering is another financial incentive whereby the consumer is credited in kWh for each kWh exported to the grid. Each state is different, so it’s worth investigating further whether your utility is using a feed-in tariff or net metering and what the feed-in tariff rates are.
When considering investing in solar power as a business owner, there are a lot of considerations to take into account. These range from determining your energy demand load profile as you want to match your daily solar yield curve to your daily energy demand as much as possible.
Other factors you also need to take into account are whether your roof will be able to support the extra load of the solar panels, the size of the roof, is there shading, the orientation of the roof, etc.
Different states and utilities offer different feed-in tariffs or net metering opportunities and these also need to be factored in.
Under the right conditions, investing in solar power can assist in reducing your business’s operating costs and hedge against future electricity price increases.
You need to do your homework and due diligence though.
The above list is by no means exhaustive, as there are a lot more variables to consider before making the solar PV decision.
Having a professional conduct a pre-feasibility study is the first step to take, as they will take all the different variables into account and determine whether solar power is an ideal solution for your business.
If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!
Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.
Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.
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