Commercial property owners and businesses of all sizes are getting squeezed by rising energy prices and the declining reliability of the aging US electric grid infrastructure. Business owners know that money spent on electric bills or lost during an outage can quickly impact the bottom line. Many business owners are also making commitments to reduce or eliminate their carbon footprint and solar power is one of the most visible and approachable ways to do this.

The average commercial property owner needs a way to reduce energy costs and improve resilience.

A commercial solar panel system can do just that.

3 Reasons to Invest in Commercial Solar Panels

A commercial solar panel installation isn’t just for big businesses like Apple, Walmart, and Tesla any more. Those giants of industry may be in the news for their big plans to generate solar electricity, but as the price of solar has dropped (over 30% in the last five years!), this alternative source of energy is becoming more mainstream.

Lower costs make commercial solar accessible to companies of all sizes including car dealerships, manufacturing facilities, hospitals, agriculture, and more. When you consider the many benefits of solar power systems, you’ll see how they can benefit your business.

Here are three of the most important reasons:

solar panels on the industrial rooftop showing the city on the horizon

1. Solar Power Can Reduce Operating Costs

Energy costs are often one of the most significant line items in a company’s budget. One of the most impactful benefits of integrating solar power into your energy mix is that you’ll improve your monthly cash flow.

Generate your own renewable energy

First, solar energy can improve your bottom line. Depending on the size of your solar array, you could generate all or at least a significant percentage of the energy you need to run your operations. The less electricity you pull from the grid, the lower your utility bills will be each month because you’re generating your own electricity. Buying electricity from a utility is like renting your energy, but a solar system on your roof is owning your energy. This generates significant long-term savings just like owning a home versus renting.

Peak shaving

Many manufacturing businesses have demand charge tariffs on their utility bills. That means you’re charged more for the electricity you’re pulling from the grid during peak hours. Those peak charges could make up a significant portion of your electric bill. A solar system that typically produces peak power at the same time can allow you to mitigate or avoid these charges all together through a process known as peak shaving.

With battery storage, peak shaving is enhanced by allowing your system’s controller to proactively adjust your power mix to use more of your own solar-generated electricity during peak hours. This decreased demand for grid power during peak hours means a smaller electric bill. There is no better way to put you in control.

Your commercial solar system can help control future energy costs

Solar panel systems also make your energy costs predictable today and into the future. As noted earlier, by generating your own renewable energy on-site and employing peak shaving practices, you control how much electricity you pull from the grid. That control makes budgeting easier because you’ll have a better understanding of what your utility costs will be from month to month. And your solar energy helps to mitigate future utility price increases, allowing you to hedge inflation and remain in control.

If your solar power system is equipped with a monitoring solution like Velo Solar’s POWERENFO, you can also track your energy usage and energy savings over time. Understanding how your business is using energy will help you identify large, problem loads and reduce or eliminate them. It also helps you to make informed decisions about adding more solar panels as your business, and your energy usage, grows. We help customers design a plan that matches their current and future energy needs and grows your solar power system as your business grows.

roof mounted commercial solar atlanta

2. A Solar Power System Provides Resilience

The second key benefit to investing in solar is that it provides your business with resilience. In the case of an electric outage caused by severe weather or other natural disasters like wildfires, your solar system can keep the critical components of your business up and running. Imagine you’re a business owner and a hurricane is forecast to make a direct hit on your business. If you have solar power and battery storage, you can evacuate with the confidence that your business’ critical electrical systems will continue to function normally until power can be restored.

solar panels on the industrial rooftop

3. Installing Solar Panels Is Good For Business

As more companies announce Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives and set goals to reach carbon neutrality or even net-zero carbon emissions, the pressure to follow suit will increase up and down the supply chain.

Companies want vendors that are reducing their carbon footprint

Businesses that invest in solar find that their commitment to clean energy gives them a competitive advantage when bidding for contracts and new business. If your potential clients are looking to reduce the carbon emissions associated with their products, you can help them do that by reducing yours.

Consumers want to buy from brands that are reducing their carbon footprint

Sustainability is also a hot topic among consumers. If you’re selling directly to the general public, a solar array on your rooftop can improve your brand image and attract new customers.

architect standing by solar panels making diagnostics computer

Is a Commercial Solar Installation Right for Your Business?

You may be wondering if solar can really power your business. The answer is yes! Upon completion, Tesla’s new Gigafactory 1 in Nevada will be fully powered by solar panels. Apple is also partnering with a local utility in Nevada to construct a 200 megawatt solar farm that will power the company’s largest data center.

Commercial solar installations aren’t one-size-fits-all

There are many ways to approach solar installations. Your solar system should be customized to meet your needs and grow with your business, so it’s best to work with a knowledgable commercial solar provider that can guide you through the process and help you to determine what’s best for your individual situation, regardless of system size.

Factory and office building roofs are ideal locations for solar arrays, if for no other reason than there’s a lot of unused real estate up there. Solar canopies and carports are also great ways to bring solar to your facility, and the covered parking is a nice perk for your workforce. Another alternative is a ground-mounted array.

Regardless of where your solar equipment is installed, it’s built to last. Solar power systems are reliable and require very little maintenance. That said, it’s important that your solar power plant be monitored and regularly inspected to ensure the long lifespan of your valuable solar asset, and the best ROI.

Federal tax credits can reduce the cost of your solar system

Some business owners might be concerned about whether the benefits of solar outweigh the costs. The answer is typically yes! And there are tax credits available to tip the scales even further in your favor.

There are a number of federal, state, and even local government incentives available to commercial businesses investing in solar. The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) provides a 26% federal tax credit for projects started in 2022. For projects started in 2023, the credit will be 22%. In 2024 and thereafter it will be 10%.

The ITC also allows for accelerated depreciation, which can reduce the overall cost of a commercial solar installation by an additional 20-30% in many cases.

There may even be state and local tax credits that you can leverage to reduce the initial cost of your solar power system.

There is no better time to take control of your energy future! Let Velo Solar help you Re:Power your business.

How can we help you determine if solar is right for you?

If you’re researching renewable energy, commercial solar companies, or the solar industry in general, you’re bound to come across the term EPC.

  • What does EPC in solar energy mean?
  • What do you do if solar EPC isn’t the right choice for you?

Let’s dive in and take a look at some of the most common ways commercial solar systems are designed and built.

What is a Solar EPC Company?

EPC stands for engineering procurement and construction, and this has been the primary business model for the commercial solar energy industry over the last decade.

When you work with a solar EPC company, you’re hiring a single company to engineer your solar system, procure the elements needed to build that system, and then construct the solar system at your location.

The Biggest Benefit of Solar EPC

With an EPC solar company, you’ll have a single point of contact for all things related to your solar system.

If you have a question or there’s an issue while your solar PV plant is being installed, you’ll know immediately who to call – and it’s their responsibility to resolve the issue, not yours.

A solar EPC company provides turnkey solar systems

What this all boils down to is that a solar EPC company is a one stop shop perfect for customers that want a complete solar installation package.

It’s 100% turnkey.

When Solar EPC is Not the Right Fit

While solar EPC is the prevailing business model in the solar industry, it may not be the perfect fit for your company or your situation. If you’re not ready to go all in with solar, the EPC approach is going to be more of a challenge.

With an EPC solar company, you’ll get a package of services that may include a feasibility study, design, and construction of your solar system. But it’s a one-size-fits-all mentality that means every customer gets the same set of services. You can’t get just a piece of the package – you have to take it all.

But what if you’re not ready for the full array of EPC services?

If you’re not ready to go all in with solar, you could resort to the design-bid-build approach commonly found in other segments of the construction industry.

With the more piecemeal design-bid-build approach, you pick and choose the services you want to buy, when you want to buy them. Ultimately you serve as your own general contractor, responsible for finding, managing, and contracting with the right vendor for each component of your solar project from structural design to final commissioning.

That means finding the company to do the site survey and design your solar system. And the vendor that will supply the solar panels, battery storage system…. and every piece of equipment required to complete the entire project.

Then, you have to hire yet another vendor to do the final construction of your solar plant. Keep in mind that if anything goes wrong or is missing during the construction phase, it’s your responsibly to resolve the issue with the contractor so that you can keep your project on track.

There are a couple of major downsides to this approach. First, it’s a lot of work for someone who has presumably taken a solar installation project on in addition to their full time job! Second, because there is very little collaboration between your vendors, you could wind up with a solar system that doesn’t fully meet your needs.

Fortunately, there is another option. It’s called design-build and it offers the convenience of EPC approach with the flexibility of design-bid-build.

Velo is the Premier Design-Build Solar Company in the US

 

Design-Build is EPC+

Design-build starts out with the same framework as the EPC model. You still have one contract with a single company that’s in charge of the engineering, procurement, and construction of your solar project. You’ll still know exactly who to call with your questions or concerns.

The difference is that design-build is more adaptable to your specific needs than a strict EPC model. It’s EPC on steroids.

At Velo Solar, we take a design-build approach to everything we do. The way we work is unique in the solar industry because it offers flexibility and it allows us to customize our offering to better fit the needs of our customers.

Flexibility is Key

  • If you just want to have a feasibility study done to determine if a solar energy system makes logistical and financial sense for your business, we can do that.
  • If you only want to understand if your roof is suitable for a solar PV plant, our experts can conduct a site survey and make that determination.
  • If you have sustainability goals you want to meet, we can work with you to explore how solar power might help you accomplish those goals.
  • If you want a 100% turnkey solar system installed with a solar panels, battery storage, and the complete range of support we offer from start to finish, we can do that too!

A Solar Industry Leader That’s Your Energy Partner

Design-build is more of a long term partnership between the provider and the customer, and that’s why we believe design-build is the best path forward for companies investigating commercial solar implementation.

We have the ability to partner with you wherever you are on the path to solar energy integration. Whether you need one thing or the whole package, we can provide whatever services you need.

And because we become your partner in renewable energy, we can design, install, and maintain a solar system that perfectly fits your needs and your timeline.

Another upside to the way we do business is that when you partner with Velo Solar, you’ll be working with our employees. From the site survey, design, and engineering of your solar system to its financing, construction, and final commissioning, our cross-functional teams collaborate with you and with each other during every phase of the project.

This integrated approach delivers the solar plant you need.

Service After the Sale: Solar Panels and Beyond

Because we want to ensure that each solar system we design and build works smoothly for decades to come, we also offer ongoing maintenance services. While solar systems are typically low-maintenance, regular inspections and maintenance of the equipment makes sure that your system delivers peak performance and the highest return on investment possible.

Each year, our technicians will do a thorough check for anything that might reduce your system’s ability to produce energy. This could include damage to the panel, wiring, or frame, or even noting if your system’s energy production is being reduced by overgrown vegetation shading the panels.

The Future Will Demand Flexibility

As the commercial solar energy industry evolves over the next decade, we’re going to see a lot of technology convergence. This convergence is going to demand solar providers be integrated, collaborative, and cross-functional – and that’s the heart of Velo Solar’s design-build mentality.

How can we help you determine if solar is right for you?

Commercial Solar Services

  • Site survey
  • Evaluation of current energy usage
  • Solar plant structural design
  • Procurement of all solar and energy storage equipment
  • Project engineering and construction, including the management of all permitting and coordination with your utility
  • System testing and generation measurements
  • Reporting with our proprietary POWERENFO technology
  • Annual inspection and preventative maintenance of your solar plant

As part of its corporate commitment to community values, J.C. Lewis Ford tapped Georgia-based Velo Solar to install solar energy systems on its Hinesville and Statesboro locations.

J.C. Lewis Ford is the first car dealership in the Savannah area to adopt solar energy for its operations. The two solar locations, built by Choate Construction, reflect the dealership’s ongoing mission to community values, including a reduction of its carbon footprint and economical operation. Velo Solar installed 60 kilowatt systems on each dealership to reduce utility bills as well as environmental impact.

Walter Lewis, president of J.C. Lewis Ford, said the decision to incorporate solar into the company’s operation flows from the dedication that has distinguished its operation since its founding in 1912.

“J.C. Lewis Ford values our community,” he said. “The first step towards supporting the community is environmentally responsible construction. We were proud to partner with Velo Solar to reduce our carbon footprint while increasing our economic impact, providing jobs and efficient, economical vehicle choices.”

Commissioned in 2019, the solar systems have operated in keeping with initial projections for lowering J.C. Lewis’s power bills in each location. In addition, the systems have avoided 114 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of planting 2,970 trees in a 10-year span.

Graham Cooper, Choate Construction Senior Project Manager, said Velo Solar was an excellent partner during the installation process.

“When Choate was awarded the J.C. Lewis Ford projects, we were able to quickly identify ways to accomplish the client’s goal to reduce energy consumption through the use of relevant fixtures and a complete {solar} photovoltaic system,” Cooper said. “Our selection of a capable partner who could install a photovoltaic system that would satisfy our client was crucial. Velo Solar made the process smooth and we look forward to expanding our partnership with them in the future.”

Britt Lothridge, director of sales for Velo Solar, said commercial operations like J.C. Lewis Ford can get excellent return on investment with solar energy, as well as lowering their carbon footprint.

“Working with J.C. Lewis Ford and Choate was a great opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of solar energy for commercial operations,” he said. “They invested at a great time for the best return and we are delighted that the system has performed as well as projected, providing savings and efficiency with clean solar power.”

View the J.C Lewis Ford Case Study

 


Published March 11, 2020 at Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

The resurgence of manufacturing in America, much like energy policy, has been at the forefront of political debate in our last election season. Aside from having similar political clout, these industries have a lot more in common than meets the eye.

Solar energy has been on the rise in the United States since the early 2000’s and has become a significant part of our national energy mix. This rapid growth has been primarily due to state and federal subsidies, improved manufacturing economics (cheaper production) and innovative financial vehicles. The vast majority of early growth in the industry came from third-party owned residential and utility scale systems. These third-party ownership structures were pioneered by large solar developers such as Solar City, SunRun, Sun Edison and other West Coast developers with access to large pools of tax equity.

With all of this growth in the industry there is still one sector which is considered to be underserved, but with massive potential for solar adoption. That is commercial and industrial (C&I) rooftop solar. Many can speculate as to the reasons for this lagging market sector, but from Velo’s years of experience in dealing with C&I clients we can tell you that the clear majority of these businesses prefer to own their own solar assets as opposed to entering into a third-party ownership agreement which would yield lower energy savings, lock them into a long-term contract, complicate real-estate transactions, and forgo all tax attributes associated with owning their own array.

Solar is starting to see a shift from a third-party ownership dominated market to customer owned. There are two reasons for this transition.

  1. Solar has become cheaper due to improved manufacturing, competition in the marketplace and overall economies of scale. This has helped to shelter the solar industry from impending policy risk. In other words, unsubsidized solar can stand on its own two feet and remain an attractive investment regardless of clean energy policy claw-backs.
  2. As solar has matured as an industry, financial institutions have become more comfortable with the long-term viability and risks associated with solar as an asset class. Thus, there are more traditional and cheaper vehicles with which to finance customer-owned projects.

These conditions have made it possible for commercial and industrial customers to own their own assets with traditional financial vehicles while keeping cash flow positive and achieving long-term attractive returns for their business.

While this is great news for all C&I rooftop solar customers, there is one market segment which is best positioned to take advantage of these new conditions above all others. Manufacturing seems to be one of the most receptive market segments to rooftop solar integration. There are several reasons why manufacturers are such great rooftop solar candidates.

  1. Most manufacturers understand energy as a part of their supply chain. There is a consensus that all the costs along the supply chain are absorbed into your product and thus make you less competitive. In most manufacturing operations, you see entire teams dedicated to sustainability focus groups where they look for best practices, whether that’s in looking for LED solutions, HVAC upgrades, or more efficient operating equipment. In a world where US manufacturing is under more and more threat to cheaper overseas production, we are forced to become more innovative and explore all available efficiencies which can advance our products in today’s global market. Solar is a major efficiency which can help accomplish this.
  1. Manufacturers typically have the most suitable infrastructure to accommodate rooftop solar installs. This would include having a large flat rooftop which is clear of heavy machinery and is typically only single story. This allows for easier installations of larger arrays which can provide maximum energy production to offset the operation below.
  1. One of the unique features of solar manufacturers in Georgia is that they’re exempt from sales tax, which helps tremendously with returns on projects where other manufacturers might suffer. They receive a 30% federal tax credit on their first year of using solar and can take advantage of accelerated solar depreciation on a 5-year schedule. In Georgia, manufacturers can start seeing a return on investment in as little as two to four years. This trend in ROI has been rising consistently over recent years.
  1. Solar can improve a manufacturer’s load factor – this is basically a measurement of how often the facility hits their peak energy demand and for how long. For example – if the manufacturer powers up all of its equipment at the same time and has intermittent spikes in its usage, this can cause a poor load factor leading to a higher rate of electricity from the grid. Solar can help by “shaving” these peaks during the day to help normalize the facility’s energy usage, thus improving their load factor resulting in a more favorable retail energy rate over time.
  1. Solar can also improve a manufacturer’s power factor – this is basically a measure of the difference of energy provided from the grid vs actual energy used to perform work in the facility. Manufacturers are exposed to power factor issues because of electric motors in their equipment, which require an electromagnetic field to operate. This is known as an induction load and can lead to inefficiencies in a manufacturer’s power factor. A poor power factor usually leads to a higher rate of electricity and a more expensive bill. Solar has the ability to perform power factor correction by way of injecting a leading or lagging voltage into the facility during daytime production thus improving the retail energy rate over time.

In conclusion – The C&I solar rooftop market can be a tremendous asset to our manufacturing sector in this country as we continue to compete in a smarter global economy. Solar is an instrument with the potential to provide us with yet another competitive edge we can use to revitalize our manufacturing economy while advancing us towards energy independence. The cost of solar has gone down significantly because of better manufacturing of the solar equipment. It’s Velo Solar’s equipment costs that brings turnkey production costs down 70% in the last 10 years. For more information about how your company can get involved with going solar, please contact us to discuss your plans.

Integrating solar into your business’ current energy system can be one of the best decisions you ever make as a business owner. It’s not only cost-effective and sustainable, but it’s industrious and incredibly easy to manage. In fact, we’ve consistently seen the ROI of using solar in as few as 3-5 years. The process of installation ranges from finding a suitable company to take you through the steps, to the physical installation itself, and then how to harness the solar energy you’ll be producing.

Velo Solar is a leader in the commercial solar installation industry. As one of the only firms with an all engineer management team, we’re confident that our company has found the key to simplifying and maximizing the solar installation process. Today we’ll guide you through that process ourselves.

Step One: Analysis

Velo conducts a cost/benefit analysis on your business. We’ll come to your site, with no hassle to you so your daily operations can remain stable, and while we’re there we’ll determine what system will be optimal for your energy requirements. We want to be sure you’re not spending more money, or an excess of energy, so we see to it that your system utilizes only the energy it’ll need. We’re also more than happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have for your big project!

Step Two: Design

After the initial meeting, a Velo Solar NABCEP-Certified PV Installation Professional will come back to your establishment and take specific measurements of your roof to prepare for the installation. This is when we’ll design the fully customized solar power system for your business’ unique characteristics.

Step Three: Financing

Now it’s time to figure out the best financing plan for your new solar power system. The team at Velo will walk you through the incentive offerings from the state, and help guide you through the three financing options that are open to most business owners, including cash purchases, solar loans, and power purchase agreements (PPAs). We’ll also provide some insight into the contracts and warranties available to you. It’s our goal to ensure your new system is set up accurately, efficiently, and as cost effective for you as possible.

Step Four: Engineering

Now you can see your vision begin to take shape. Our NABCEP-Certified Solar PV engineer will handle all permits, drawings, installation, and inspections once we engineer your new solar panels. We handle everything for you so you can rest assured your project is in good hands.

Step Five: Flip the Switch

Once the installation phase is complete and the utility company approves the installation, we turn the system on and immediately begin tracking your production. We’ll handle any immediate troubleshooting that might arise, but we’re confident your business will begin to run on clean, renewable energy from day one. Velo Solar also offers our self-engineered energy monitoring software, PowerEnfo, that allows you to monitor your solar production in real time.

Step Six: Quality Assurance

Once the installation phase is complete and your system is running smoothly, we’ll do another quality assurance inspection to make sure everything is perfect. We are committed to making sure your business is operating at optimal solar capacity, based on your design in the beginning phases.

Step Seven: Ongoing Maintenance

Velo is committed to making sure you’re satisfied with your system. We’ll continue to be available to you to handle any unforeseen issues that occur. Velo will also provide PowerEnfo reports and alerts, conduct scheduled operations and maintenance, and handle warranties for you. Once we enter into an agreement in the very beginning we become your solar partner, committed to making your system work to and exceed your expectations.

The Benefits:

There are ample benefits to choosing solar for your business. Financially, you protect yourself from rising utility rates by not being completely reliant on the grid, you increase your property value, you capture positive ROI in just 3 to 5 years, among other incentives and financial reductions. Environmentally, your corporate sustainability needs can either take off altogether or increase from where they already stand. Of course, one of the largest impacts would be the decrease in your dependence on fossil fuels and reduce your environmental impact. One of the best benefits of your investment, in addition to having your system essentially pay for itself, and for the sustainable actions you’ll take toward the environment, is the fact that your system will continue to operate for 20+ years.

Going solar is a worthy, lasting investment you can make for your business as well as the environment. By making the commitment with us to make the world a little cleaner, to incentivize our state to support these systems, and to benefit from the energy savings your new solar power system will yield, you make your business a little more sustainable. Give us a call to see if solar is right for your business!

The answer to this question is more complicated than most might think. It’s true that rooftop solar technology, specifically photovoltaic systems, have experienced a huge drop in price over the last five years along with a steady increase in system efficiency. For instance, solar arrays were being built for up to $12/watt for a commercial system back in 2007. Today we are seeing average commercial systems built for under $2/watt – that’s a reduction in price by a factor of 6 in just the last 8 years!

This reduction in price has ultimately driven market demand in the commercial and industrial sectors with the promise of an attractive payback through substantial energy savings. Though rooftop solar can seem like an attractive investment to many companies, it’s important to understand the feasibility of a potential project before diving too deep into the development phase. There are several criteria which can make your business a good candidate for rooftop solar.

Facility Ownership Structure

First and foremost, we like to understand our customer’s ownership structure regarding their facility. The best candidate is an owner-occupied building with a single electricity meter although multiple meters are not necessarily a huge obstacle. The second-best candidate is a long term building owner with either a single or anchor tenant under a gross lease structure.

Entity Type

Typically, we discourage any business with a 501C3 nonprofit status from going solar. This is because, as a non-profit, they do not have a tax appetite necessary to monetize the federal solar tax credit or accelerated depreciation. Since the tax attributes are some of the primary ROI drivers for solar, it is necessary that the purchasing entity qualify for these incentives.

Energy Profile

Another primary driver of ROI for solar projects is the retail cost of electricity from the grid. Since your rooftop solar array is offsetting this cost on a kWh basis, the payback will be directly proportional to the retail electricity cost avoided from the grid. In today’s market, solar power can compete with retail electricity costs above $0.10/kWh at a commercial scale. The scale of the project does play a part, meaning that a larger system may be able to yield an attractive payback even against retail electricity prices below $0.10/kWh.

Rooftop Conditions

One of the more obvious concerns businesses have with rooftop solar is the impact it will have on their roof. We look for several things when it comes to an adequate roof space for solar.

  1. No Significant Shading from trees, equipment or adjacent buildings
  2. Rooftop should be less than 12 years old
  3. Adequate space, free of rooftop equipment including safety anchors for window washing

Solar systems are compatible with just about any type of commercial rooftop and typically do not require penetration. Your solar EPC should work directly with your roofer to maintain your roof’s warranty after the installation.

Does my utility offer net metering?

Net metering is a game changer when it comes to solar. This basically means that your utility will offer to buy back any excess energy sent back to the grid at retail cost. This is not essential to generating a good payback, however it does play a role in how your system should be sized. Georgia does not currently have a net metering policy.

What should my payback look like?

A viable commercial project should have a payback between 2- 5 years at the most. In today’s solar market, any payback over 5 years should be indicative of an incompatible business profile for rooftop solar.

Conclusion

Before you decide to take your company solar, make sure to ask yourself the following:

  1. Does my business have the right ownership structure of the facility?
  2. Can my business qualify for federal tax credits and depreciation?
  3. What is my cost / kWh?
  4. What are my rooftop conditions?
  5. What are my utilities policies on buying back electricity?
  6. What kind of payback will justify my capital expense?

If the answer to these questions points to rooftop solar as a viable option for your business, it’s time to start getting estimates from your local solar provider. If you would like to see if solar makes sense for your business, give Velo Solar a call or visit our website at www.velosolar.com for a free estimate and solar energy assessment.