10 Common Questions About Commercial Rooftop Solar

Will my solar panels generate electricity during cloudy, rainy, or snowy days?

Solar panels begin generating electricity when there is visible light. The more intense, direct, and unobstructed the sun's UV rays, the higher the energy production.

There are multiple factors that can affect the amount of solar energy your solar panel can produce. These factors include climate, weather, and the type of solar technology you choose to use. These factors affect buildings and their solar energy systems differently. For example, if your building is in a generally sunny area and a cloud blows over your building, you will have less solar energy production than if there were no clouds.

Pictured: A 101.2 kW PV system install on a Commercial Office Building in Brea, CA using PV Booster rooftop tracker

Pictured: A 101.2 kW PV system install on a Commercial Office Building in Brea, CA using PV Booster rooftop tracker

For commercial solar projects, solar technology choices are critical. For example, using a tracker mount for your solar panels can produce more energy than any other mounting system. These trackers follow the sun all day, ensuring you get the most out of your solar array and allowing you to make more accurate predictions about your solar energy production. If you have a flat rooftop on your commercial building, Point Load Power offers PV Booster , a tracking mount meant for rooftop installation that can produce significantly more energy with your solar panels than a fixed tilt rack.

Bifacial solar panels are another solar technology factor that can help you make the most out of a snowy day. Bifacial solar panels produce energy from both sides of the solar panel and generate energy from sunlight reflected off the backside panel. If using bifacial solar panels, weather events like snow can be a benefit and can help reflect more sunlight onto your solar panels.

If interested in learning more about how climate and weather affect solar energy production, check out Energy Information Administration’s website.

Do I have to go off the grid when I switch to solar? 

Unless you’re utilizing solar batteries, which store your excess solar energy, it is unlikely you will be able to go entirely off the grid when you install your commercial solar energy system. In fact, almost all commercial buildings using solar energy still utilize the grid but with significantly reduced energy costs.

Solar energy systems for commercial buildings are not meant to completely eliminate your need for the grid, but to replace the majority of your electricity usage with renewable sources, creating a more sustainable energy solution and allowing you to take advantage of the solar tax incentives in your state.

As a commercial building owner, how do I bill my tenants for their solar energy usage? 

Now more than ever, commercial building owners are profiting off their solar energy systems. As a building owner utilizing a solar energy solution, you will need to sell solar power to your tenants. This is simpler than it sounds. By using an electric meter, you can record how much solar energy your tenant is using and bill them accordingly. To learn more about your options as a building owner for billing your tenant for solar energy, see Energy Sage’s Solar for Landlords Guide.

Installing solar on your commercial building will also allow you to take advantage of net metering (NEM), a solar incentive that allows you to store excess solar energy on the grid. It is unlikely that you will use all the solar energy produced by your solar panels on a daily basis, so net metering sends excess energy back to the grid, and in return, your utility company will give you credits that further lower your electricity bill. To learn more about net metering in your state and how it can help you see a faster return on your solar investment see DSIRE Clean Energy’s website.

How much will I save on my electricity bills every month after switching to solar? 

For commercial building owners, going solar is a strategic decision that almost guarantees a significant financial return for your business. EnergySage market data shows the average commercial building owner in the U.S can reduce their electricity bill by up to 75% after switching to solar power. Switching to solar energy will also lock you into a low electricity rate for the life of your solar panels, usually 25-30 years.

There are many tools that can be used for estimating how much you stand to save from switching to solar. Check out our webinar, Unlocking Idle Assets , to see a demonstration of our favorite energy bill estimator, Energy Toolbase. This demonstration uses PV Booster , Point Load Power’s rooftop tracker, to show how building owners can generate up to 70% more revenue per panel when using a rooftop tracking mount on their commercial building.

What tax credits, rebates, or incentives help to lower the cost of switching to solar? 

The cost of solar energy has dropped by about 90% in the last decade, and prices are continuing to drop. This is due to a combination of consumer preference for corporate sustainability and government mandates meant to reduce the effects of climate change. 

On top of already historically low costs, commercial building owners can further increase their return on investment by taking advantage of government incentives in their states. Check out DSIRE database to see what incentives are available in your state. 

When do I see the ROI for my solar panel investment? 

The amount of money you save by investing in a commercial solar energy system varies based on multiple factors including: 

  1. The solar incentives you utilize 

  2. The type of solar technology you use

  3. Your solar energy usage/the number of solar panels you choose to install

Solar panels have low maintenance costs and can last up to 30 years. Most commercial buildings have significant rooftop space and will profit the most from solar panels. We call this rooftop space your biggest idle asset, which is potential revenue generating square footage that commercial property owners should put into use. In our experience, commercial building owners usually see their ROI in 5 years or less. To determine you’re ROI for a commercial solar power system , contact your preferred solar panel contractor and check out Renewable Energy Hub’s Business and Commercial Solar Panel ROI .

What solar solutions are available to me as a commercial building owner? 

For commercial building owners looking to install solar panels, you have a few options. Solar panels built on top of parking lots, carports, or mounted on poles or building facades send a great message but may not significantly reduces your electricity bills. These solutions do somewhat reduce energy costs but mostly are a great way to let your customers know you support renewable energy. For more information on these solar power options check out Lets Go Solar’s page .

If you have a large flat rooftop or ground space near your commercial building, you can install larger solar power systems that will greatly reduce your energy costs and increase the value of your property. Using a tracker mount for your solar panels, as opposed to fixed solar panels, will ensure your panels face the sun all day, making your solar energy production more predictable. 70% of ground mount projects use tracking panels and that technology is starting to take over the rooftops of commercial buildings too. Point Load Power offers PV Booster, a rooftop tracking mount designed for commercial buildings that increase energy production significantly.

How will solar panels affect my business' property value?

Installing solar panels on your commercial building will undoubtedly increase your building’s value. Having a solar energy system could improve your company image as a green company, ensures low energy costs, and updates a building’s physical appearance. These factors increase your profits margin and the value of your building.

How do I know if my building is a good candidate for solar panels? 

The best buildings for commercial solar are buildings with large, flat rooftops in good condition. Solar projects will last many decades and it is best that you make sure your rooftop lasts just as long. At Point Load Power we call these rooftops “idle assets” because of the lost opportunity commercial building owners face by not investing in a solar power system. Technologies, like rooftop tracking systems, provide additional solar production with a smaller overall investment, freeing up additional capital for rooftop replacement or refurbishment.

Check out our webinar, Unlocking Idle Assets with Highly Profitable Solar Projects to see what kinds of rooftops are best for tracking solar panels.

What are the benefits of using solar over standard electricity? 

1.      Save money every year

2.      Increase your property value

3.      Lock in your electricity rate

4.      Earn big tax incentives

5.      Double Digit ROI quickly

6.      Demonstrate commitment to sustainability and social responsibility

To learn more about how solar can financially benefit your commercial building, see Benefits of Commercial Solar for Business.

Renee Holden