Commercial Solar Energy FAQ
1. How will switching to solar power benefit my business?
From day one, solar power offsets a portion of your electricity purchased from the grid and your electric bill. In fact, solar power is most productive during the day and during seasons when usage is at its highest, so it's offsetting the most power from the grid just when your power company is charging its highest rates.
Locks in power costs
There are many different factors from legislative and regulatory changes and restrictions to global price pressures on fossil fuels that have the potential to affect the price of your utility's electricity. When you invest in a solar power installation, you take a portion of your electricity usage away from the utility and bring it under your own control. Because maintenance of a solar power system is minimal, the future cost of your electricity is virtually the cost of your initial installation. You can relax knowing a portion of your power costs are behind you, independent of changes impacting the rest of the world.
Makes good business sense
Depending on physical conditions, utility prices, and tax and other incentives and rebates available at your location, a solar system may fully recoup its cost in as little as 5 years. Since systems are known to last 40+ years, you will be reaping pure savings for years to come.
Improves public perceptions
Environmentally conscious neighbors are looked upon as good neighbors, and that can be priceless. By adding solar as a power source, you are helping conserve energy for everyone. In so doing, you become part of a community environmental solution rather than part of the problem. It's nice to make a smart investment that helps your company; it's even better, when it helps the surrounding community as well.
2. How much does a solar power installation cost?
Solar power systems can vary in cost depending upon system size and placement. For a rough estimate, the average commercial installation by a qualified installer can range from $4 to $7 per DC watt depending on the geographical location, size, ground, or rooftop mount, tracking or stationary mount, and other conditions. Economies of scale also make a significant difference so that a large 500kW system, for example, is able to be installed for much less per watt than a small 10kW system like might be used for a home or small office building.
Eagle Point Solar can help you analyze your site. Get started today by entering an information request to have a specialist contact you.
3. What is the process Eagle Point Solar will follow from sales visit to final commissioning?
Eagle Point Solar's customer process creates a complete turnkey system requiring little or no action on your part to make your solar PV system operational. Below is an outline of a typical solar evaluation and installation:
Preliminary evaluation and estimate
After contacting us we will ask you a few brief questions to see what your ideas are and ask you for information such as name, address, phone number, hours of operation, facility sq. footage, etc.
We will ask you to provide us copies of your past trailing 12 months (or more) electric utility bills so we can size a PV system to optimally meet your needs.
We will then take a look at your building on a satellite image to get a very broad idea of whether your business qualifies for the installation of a solar system and from the satellite image estimate the potential size of the solar array that might fit on the roof. (orientation, flat, pitched, aggregate, etc.)
We will provide you with an approximate cost of the system in various configurations, including any and all incentives to minimize your capital investment.
Detailed evaluation and firm quote
If the preliminary evaluation meets with your expectations, we will make an appointment to visit your business to take roof measurements, evaluate shading if any, look for obstacles that might have a negative impact on your system and to evaluate the adequacy of you electrical system to handle a solar array.
During this visit, we will explain how the solar system operates, and what kind of payback period you can expect.
We will work up a customized solar PV system plan using the best domestically produced components that will cost effectively suit your needs. We will provide you with a detailed quote within a couple of days that will tell you exactly what equipment we recommend, what the economics are, and when and how long the installation will take. There will be no surprise add-ons.
We will answer any questions you have at this point.
Once the purchase contract is executed; we will complete the necessary paperwork to get the ball rolling with your local utility and with the potential federal or state programs. A deposit of 1/3 of the system cost is required at this point.
We obtain permission from your utility company through an interconnection agreement to connect your solar PV system to the local power grid when completed.
There will be a minor deposits required at this point paid to the utilities and municipals for permits, etc. These fees range anywhere from $100 to $500.
The product takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks to be delivered. We will give you an approximate start and completion date when the purchase contract is finalized.
We will also apply for any local electrical or building permits required by your community.
When we receive your product, our project manager will contact you to arrange the installation schedule and the 2nd 1/3 payment on the system is required. We will require access to your business and the electrical panel during the installation process. We will also confer with you the best location to install the inverter and determine whether we are able to hook you up for Internet monitoring of your system. This usually requires that you have a router on the computer system that we will use as an internal portal. We will not interface with any corporate software or IT activities.
The installation of the solar panels will typically take two to six weeks or less from start to finish, depending upon the size of the system and weather conditions.
When the installation is complete, we will call for an electrical inspection by your local electrical inspector.
When the electrical inspector approves the installation, your utility company will most likely have to install new metering to insure that you are set up to receive credit for the surplus power you generate and push back into the grid. This could take as long as two weeks.
We will complete all of the paperwork necessary for your utility interconnection agreement at this time
Final payment will be due upon the switching on and commissioning of your system.
As you can see, we will guide you through the complete process.
4. How long will the system last?
Solar PV systems have no moving parts and they are virtually maintenance free. The components have been tested under the harshest conditions. You can expect your system to last anywhere from 30 to 40 years without requiring major repairs. The only component that may need to be replaced will be the inverter, which generally have a useful life of 10 to 15 years.
5. What is the warranty on your installation?
SolarWorld solar panels are warranted for 25 years, the power inverter is warranted for 10 - 15 years, and our installation for 10 years. It’s important to note that a solar PV system will generate power for much longer than the 25 years the panels are warranted.
6. Is it possible to supply all of my power needs with a solar system?
In some cases, it is possible to offset all or nearly all of your required electrical power with a solar PV system, but this isn’t usually recommended. The main determining factors are whether you have enough space with sufficient hours of sun exposure and your normal hours of operation. Eagle Point Solar professionals can analyze your site and energy use to determine how much of your power needs can be handled by a solar system and what system type and design would be best for you. Depending upon your system size and your utility’s rules for net metering; we commonly target a 40% offset of annual electrical use.
7. How big of a system do I need?
If you are serious about installing solar power system for your business, you need to have professionals do an evaluation of your site. There are many considerations, and there's no substitute for experience when designing a system that will be right for you. Also, states and utilities may limit the size of a system that is eligible for net metering.
As a very rough estimate of physical size, the square footage for solar panels is approximately 0.1 sq. ft. per DC Rated Watt, so a system with a 10 kW DC rating would require about 1,000 sq. ft.
8. Will the PV solar panels be hot to touch?
Yes, but not any hotter than any other black plastic surface that is outside exposed to the sun. In fact, because they're mounted in a raised rack, they create an umbrella effect shading your roof and keeping it cooler, as well as shading your business from harmful UV rays.
9. Do I need to clean the panels?
Most of the time, rain will keep the panels sufficiently clean. However, dirt, bird droppings, leaves, and debris clinging to your solar panels will block sunlight and degrade your panels' efficiency, so periodic cleaning may be necessary. Generally you can clean them the same way you clean glass. Wash with clean water, a plastic mounted sponge mop or squidgy (soap if needed), and rinse with the hose is all that’s required.
10. How will weather affect my solar power system?
Cloudy weather can reduce power output by 20% to 30%. Snow cover can block it completely; however, the dark color of the solar panels and the trace amount of heat produced accelerates snow melt. In the summer, high temperatures can also degrade the efficiency of the solar cells which work optimally at around 70° F. These and other local weather factors are taken into account when designing your system.
11. Will I still need power from my electric company?
Usually the answer is “Yes”. If there is sufficient space and sun exposure for an Off-Grid system, you may be able to be completely independent of an electrical company with such a system. Solar power generated from photovoltaic cells in your panels can be stored in large battery paks which can distribute uninterrupted power to your facility around the clock. The large majority of solar PV systems installed will be grid-tied using the utility as the power source when the production of the PV system does not meet your building’s electrical demand.
Eagle Point Solar professionals can analyze your energy needs and help you determine which system will work best for you.
12. What direction should my roof face for a roof mount?
Ideally, your roof should be facing true south if you're in the northern hemisphere. Fixed panels on a roof facing within 40° of true south will still experience 90% or better production. Roofs facing east or west can also provide a good mounting orientation as long as other regional and site specific factors are favorable.
13. Do I have to mount the panels on my roof?
No. They don't even have to be mounted on the building itself. Ground mounted systems are generally constructed facing due south.
14. Will I notice any difference in the performance of my facility's equipment?
There will be no difference between the electricity from your solar system and electricity from the grid. There is no need to change any of your equipment. All of your electrical equipment will operate the same as it always did with no change in performance.
15. How do solar photovoltaic (PV) systems work?
Solar electric systems capture the sun's energy with photovoltaic (PV) cells that are connected together side by side in flat panels or modules mounted on a roof or open area facing toward the sun. Energy from sunlight striking the top layer of the PV cells, and causes the cells to release electrons. These electrons migrate through the electrical system and back to the cells again, causing a DC electric current in the system-the same type of current produced by a battery. A device called an inverter converts the current from DC to AC to match the kind of current running through a standard electric outlet in your building.
16. What is a Grid-Tie system?
Most systems are of the Grid-Tie type. In such systems, solar and grid power work together in an integrated system to decrease your energy costs, much like the electric and gasoline engines do in a hybrid automobile. Power from your solar PV system will be used before power from the grid is purchased.
17. Does a Grid-Tie system need a battery?
Grid-Tie systems do not use batteries to store electricity. Excess power from your solar panels flows back into the grid coming right off the meter; you will actually see your meter dials turning backwards. This system of subtracting self-produced power directly from the meter is called "net metering" and usually gives you the best value for "selling" your power back to the electric utility. If, however, you want your system to be partly or fully self sustaining during black-outs and brown outs, a storage battery can be added to carry the load during such periods.
18. What is an Off-Grid system?
An Off-Grid system produces its entire electrical power needs on its own without any connection to an electric grid. Solar power generated from the photovoltaic cells in your panels is stored in batteries which distribute uninterrupted power to your site around the clock. In addition to powering entire structures, these systems are ideal for use in powering water pumps, electric fences and signs. They can be used in remote locations or any location where running power lines is impractical or undesirable.
19. If I have a Grid-Tie system, will I lose power in a black out?
As a required safety measure for utility repairs crews, fire inspectors, and electricians, if the grid should “shut down”, the inverter for the solar PV system will “shut down” immediately as well. If you have a back-up generation system, it will cycle on if a power failure occurs.
However, Grid-Tie systems usually operate without a battery backup because batteries add cost and complexity to the system. In these systems, grid power and power from your solar panels work together to carry the electrical load. Excess power flows back through your meter subtracting from your usage. Because both the utility and your solar power system are sharing your facility's wiring, your system will shut off automatically whenever the grid loses power to prevent stray current from going out to the grid where it could cause injury or damage.
20. What commercial solar energy incentives are available?
Tax credits and rebates - In addition to tax incentives offered by state and local governments, the U.S. Treasury offers a business energy tax credit of 30% of the cost of a commercial solar electric system. There is also an accelerated equipment depreciation (MACRS) schedule that can be applied. In some cases, the combined savings on rebates from government and utility companies can pay for over 60% of your system installation. Check The Database of State Incentives (DSIRE) for rebates available in your area.
Eagle Point Solar keeps up to date on tax incentives and credits and utility rebates; we will discuss your site's qualifying factors as part of the initial proposal.