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.