How to Know if Going Solar is Right for You
Solar panels are more affordable than ever, and they can provide great energy savings. If you grimace at your business’s power bill every month, going solar might be the solution. However, a solar system is still a major investment in your business. Is it right for you? Read on to learn about the benefits of solar and what questions to ask yourself.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
A solar array is a set of panels installed on your commercial building’s roof. The panels contain receptors that convert the sun’s light into Direct Current electricity. The energy that flows to the inverter, which converts it into Alternate Current (AC) that you can use to power your lights, air conditioning, appliances, etc.
Any extra energy is stored in a battery bank or fed back into the power grid, which can net you solar credits from your utility provider. If your system doesn’t generate enough power (e.g. on a cloudy day when you’re running a lot of equipment), you’ll just pull power from the grid as normal.
Solar Energy Advantages for Businesses
Solar panels work all day long, so most systems generate sufficient energy to power the building all day and fuel the battery bank for night. Because most businesses operate during daylight, you may not even need to draw much power at nighttime. A solar system allows you to significantly reduce the amount of electricity you buy from your utility supplier — up to 75% on average! In fact, you may even get credits back from your energy provider.
Depending on your local laws, you also may be eligible for government rebates and tax credits. Solar systems are often considered a capital improvement, and you can claim a tax benefit or write-off if you own your building. If you’re renting, your property owner may be willing to pass savings onto you.
Solar systems are usually self-sustaining: they don’t require a lot of maintenance and most are designed to last 25 years. If you live in an area subject to brownouts or blackouts, these outages can negatively impact your business. A commercial solar system will not cut out when you need power. Your appliances, lights, and equipment will continue working as normal.
Finally, going solar reduces your carbon footprint and helps your business “go green.” This can improve your reputation and appeal to environmentally conscious customers who want to support green energy. Most businesses use a lot of energy that is generated through coal-burning facilities. By going solar, you can reduce your impact on CO2 emissions that are harming the planet.
Are Solar Panels Right for Your Business?
Despite all the benefits of solar systems, they are not right for everyone. There are some important considerations you should make before calling up your local solar installer. Ask yourself these questions:
Are you willing to make an upfront investment?
If your power bills are steep, you’re probably eager to cut them. However, solar panels are still expensive, even though the price has come down in recent years. Think of it as prepaying for the energy you’ll use over the next 20-40 years.
Most solar customers see a return on their investment within 2 to 4 years. The exact return depends on the size of the system, any rebates or credits, and of course your daily usage. Your solar installer will create a system that meets your current demand without generating too much excess. Most customers see savings within their first month. Ideally, the panels pay for themselves within a couple of years.
Do you own or rent your commercial building?
Installing solar panels is not to be taken lightly. In addition to the cost of the solar array, your building’s roof may need modification to accommodate the panels. If you own the building, it’s entirely up to you. But if you rent, your property owner may balk at this long-term modification to the building.
That said, there are often incentives and benefits to the property owner. Some government programs allow the property owner to receive tax breaks for clean energy investments. Plus, solar panels generally raise a property’s value, yet reduce costs to the owner. This means going solar could be win–win for both the tenant and the landlord.
Will a solar system meet your energy demands?
Obviously, solar panels work during daylight hours. If your business is operating during the day, your solar system generates energy on demand. However, if you run all day (e.g. a 24-hour store) or mostly at night (e.g. a bar), you will need a way to store energy for nighttime usage. Battery banks can be expensive and are often not included in the cost of the panels.
This doesn’t mean that you are out of luck if you operate at night. With rebates and low-cost financing options, you can obtain your first battery bank and add more as required. Also, by shifting energy-intensive operations to daylight hours, you can reduce your energy demand in the evenings and nights. Communicate your needs to your solar installer so they can optimize your system.
For most business owners, going solar will improve cash flow by significantly reducing or even eliminating power bills. After the upfront investment, most businesses see immediate savings and can recover the costs within 2 to 4 years. Plus, they benefit from tax incentives, rebates, and an eco-friendly reputation. Going solar is one of the best things your business can do to obtain reliable, clean energy and reduce your operating expenses.
If you’re interested in going solar, reach out to Browning Electric Co. We work with facilities of every size to ensure that a solar system can meet your needs. With full usage calculations, modular capabilities, and retrofit options, we’re confident we can help you take advantage of solar benefits. Contact us today.