Here are 8 things you need to know.

By using solar power, your business saves on electricity you now buy from the grid. Less utility-provided power means lower power bills. When you invest in solar power, you control a meaningful portion of your energy use. And, depending on conditions, you may recoup your initial solar system investment in as little as three years. Because solar power systems can last over 30 years, you’ll see savings for many years. Here are the things you need to know when deciding whether solar is right for your business.

  1. Can I use solar to power my business?A solar system can power your entire business’ electrical systems, including lights, cooling systems, appliances, and equipment. But, remember that solar PV only produces power during the day. Your business probably needs power at night, too. While you can offset a significant portion of your electric power needs with a solar PV system, you’ll first need to consider how much sun exposure your building has, your daily energy consumption patterns, the condition of your roof, your current utility rate, and more.
  2. What size solar system do I need?Velo Solar will visit your site and evaluate the installation location for space and the amount of shade/sun. We also review your energy use. System size is usually determined using available space, energy demands and budget. Solar systems can offset a significant portion of your current energy costs and, in some cases, generate additional electricity that your utility will buy back from you, albeit usually at a reduced rate. Depending on utility buy back opportunities, we aim to offset 20-50% of your annual electricity costs. We also can help you evaluate your energy use and shift high-consumption activities to daylight hours using advanced monitoring technology.
  3. How long does a solar system last?Your system will continue to generate electricity for 25 to 30 years, although production declines 25% to 30% as the solar panels age. In the summer, high temperatures and humidity also can decrease output. Weather factors are considered when designing your system.
  4. What happens to my system during a power failure?If there’s a power failure, unless you have an independent energy storage system attached to your solar array, you will lose power. This is a safety precaution to protect utility technicians from being electrocuted as they troubleshoot power failures. The solar system only operates when grid power goes down if your system includes a battery backup designed to provide power to your home or business’s critical loads in such instances.
  5. Will I know if the system is producing electricity?Your inverter includes a display, which shows electricity production. Velo Solar also will set up a system that monitors your total energy usage and solar PV system output, then provides the information to you online. We can even install a display system in your operations center or lobby that informs anyone passing by about solar production, net energy usage and associated carbon offsets.
  6. Does a solar system require maintenance?Solar systems are very low-maintenance because they have no moving parts. Periodically, they may require cleaning to remove dirt, leaves and debris. Our PowerEnfo smart grid software monitors the activity levels of your solar system, so if something malfunctions, we can take action immediately to get you back up and running in no time.
  7. Are there incentives available?In addition to utilities’ buy-back programs and tax incentives offered by state and local governments, the IRS offers a business energy tax credit of 30% of the cost of a commercial solar system. You may also qualify for an accelerated equipment depreciation (MACRS) schedule. Check with your tax professional. Sometimes, depending on state and local incentives, the combined savings on rebates from government and utility companies can pay as much as 60% of your system installation cost. Our initial proposal will include these potential financial options. Click here to find policies and available incentives by state.
  8. What is Georgia Power’s current solar program?Georgia Power offers a solar energy purchase program to encourage new opportunities for solar development in the state. To learn more, click here.

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Georgia is offering incentives for residents and businesses to invest in solar energy. But when does it make the most economic sense to switch to solar?

The president of Velo Solar Corporation, Mark Bell, joined Rose Scott and Jim Burress on “Closer Look” to answer that question and more.

You can listen to Bell’s  interview right here for more information on solar power and how to harness the sun’s rays for energy use.

Just last month, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, making Georgia the first state in the Southeast and the 25th in the nation to approve of third-party ownership of solar. Earlier this year, the bill unanimously was passed by the General Assembly and was backed by the Green Tea Coalition, a unique alliance of the Tea Party and the Sierra Club calling for freedom of energy choice.
The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015 allows solar energy procurement agreements (SEPAs), which include leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) (PDF), for the construction and operation of solar systems. These solar systems can be on either side of the meter and must not exceed peak generating capacity requirements (10 kW for residential installations and 125 percent of actual or projected maximum annual peak demand for commercial installations) among other provisions.Previously, under the Territorial Electric Service Act of 1973, residents both had to own the solar on their rooftop and could sell it only to their utility. Thanks to the new legislation, now someone else can own the solar on a homeowner’s rooftop and that solar electricity can be sold to someone other than the utility. This new legislation opens up a third-party rooftop solar market to a degree that does not exist elsewhere in the Southeast.

The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act also has the potential to accelerate an already flourishing solar market in Georgia. Between 2012 and 2013, employment in Georgia’s solar industry grew by 225 percent — the largest gain of any state — and the state moved from 26th nationally in new solar capacity to seventh. In 2014, Pew Charitable Trusts named Georgia the fastest-growing solar market in the country.

The Peach State’s growth in the solar industry is expected to continue, not only with small-scale residential and commercial installations, but also with utility-scale solar as well. Georgia Power, the largest investor-owned utility in the state, plans to add an additional 525 MW of solar capacity by 2016, including 90 MW of solar PV plants on three Army bases across the state, which broke ground last month.

Third-party ownership: What does it mean?

Across the country, third-party ownership is becoming as prevalent in the rooftop solar market as leasing is in the car industry. In fact, in 2014, when one-quarter of all car sales were leased — the highest rate of car leasing than at any time in over a decade—two-thirds of all new residential solar installations were third-party owned.

Similar to car leasing, third-party solar ownership can be advantageous for a number of reasons. Many residents do not have the full upfront investment capital for solar systems and lack knowledge of local permitting and incentive programs. Other entities, such as nonprofits and schools, cannot access tax credits and rebates that companies can access. And for many others, installation and maintenance are major barriers.

Therefore, it often makes sense to involve a third-party developer in investing and installing a solar system. Residents sign long-term contracts in exchange for electricity prices typically lower than retail rates.

Third-party ownership of solar typically takes one of two forms: a lease or a PPA. Under a lease, the lessee pays a fixed monthly fee that is not tied to the amount of power generated, while under a PPA, the lessee agrees to purchase all of the electricity produced by the solar system.

Increasingly, companies such as SolarCitySungevity and Sunrun have seen success in the residential solar market. In fact, third-party-owned systems make up 60 to 90 percent (PDF) of new residential systems in Arizona, California, Colorado and Massachusetts. And in Georgia, third-party ownership could accelerate an already booming solar industry.

So how do other Southeastern states stack up?

Status in the Southeast

In many states in the Southeast, the law is silent with regards to third-party ownership of solar, and some even disallow the approach. (The authorization of third-party ownership hinges upon how a utility is defined [PDF] by state law, regulation and rules for incentive programs.)

South Carolina recently adopted the South Carolina Distributed Energy Resource Act of 2014 (also known as Act 236). This law enables third-party leasing of solar and other renewable energy facilities, but it does not allow for energy generated by the leased system to be sold to third parties — only back to the utility under net metering programs. Act 236 caps leased facilities at 2 percent of the utility’s previous five-year average retail peak demand.

North Carolina is one of two states, including Florida, which does not allow third-party ownership of solar. Under state law, power producers are required to sell all output to utilities, which then sell to customers. Recently, the Energy Freedom Act was introduced, which would allow third-party-owned renewable energy projects to participate in net metering arrangements.

The Energy Freedom Act has support from a number of major employers in North Carolina, including Walmart, Lowe’s and Target, but the North Carolina State House of Representatives and Senate have not passed the bill.

Florida currently does not allow third-party ownership of solar. However, recently a broad coalition called Floridians for Solar Choice launched a ballot initiative to enable third-party ownership of solar. If the process moves forward, the initiative could appear on the ballot in November 2016.

The status of third-party ownership of solar in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee remains unclear.

Today, only one state in the Southeast, North Carolina, has a renewable energy portfolio standard, and only South Carolina has a voluntary renewable energy goal. While many states may choose not to pursue a “command and control” approach to renewable energy, they still may be able to build a robust solar market by enabling third-party ownership and by creating financial incentives.

On the horizon

Solar is an abundant resource in the Southeast, although in many places an underused one. Third-party ownership may be key to accelerating solar deployment in a region where many states prefer markets to mandates. Moreover, third-party ownership could attract investment and create jobs throughout the region, while affirming energy choice for property owners.

Looking ahead, Florida and North Carolina will be states to watch as third-party ownership discussions continue to unfold. It’s time for other states in the Southeast to follow Georgia and South Carolina’s lead that the entire region can become a solar energy leader.

This story first appeared on: Rocky Mountain Institute

Day-one energy savings in as little as six weeks.

The monthly utility bills won’t stop coming, but what if you could reduce them within two billing cycles? Velo helps you do just that – we’ll get your solar system running in as little as six weeks. The best part? You start saving money the very first day it’s online.

These steps make our solar projects simple

solar energy systems process

1. Site review and energy analysis

Velo Solar experts will meet with you on your property to assess whether solar is right for you. From the start, we are there to answer all your questions and address any concerns. We’ll calculate your energy needs and do a thorough site evaluation. We’ll also inspect your roof size, shading, and condition, review the property’s electrical layout and determine your energy offset levels.

Then, we prepare your customized quote that includes complete system specifications based on your unique site characteristics and projected energy savings.

2. Solar System Design and Estimate

A Velo Solar NABCEP-Certified PV Installation Professional will return for a closer look at your roof and take precise measurements. We then design a scalable solar power system based on your unique site characteristics and your energy needs. Every element of a Velo-designed system will be sourced from trusted, reliable companies we have scrutinized and can vouch for.

3. Incentives and Financing Options

Capture your ROI in as few as 3 years

With solar, you can recoup your investment quickly. On average, it’s three to five years and steadily dropping. Factor in renewable energy financing designed to fit your budget – plus attractive energy tax credits – and a new solar system could be closer than you think.

Incentives

Many states now offer incentive programs to increase solar use (along with other sustainable energy sources) including:

  • Sell unused energy back to the grid
  • Receive subsidies and tax incentives to offset the costs of your solar array
  • Take advantage of six-year accelerated depreciation
  • Obtain low interest loans and special financing

Did You Know? A 30% federal tax credit is available to offset your installation cost, and other programs may be available in your area to provide even more savings.

Financing Options

The Velo Solar team will work with you to identify the right renewable energy financing solution for your solar system. Businesses typically have three options:

Cash Purchases Solar Loans PPower Purchase Agreements (PPAs)
Cash is the simplest way to invest in a solar energy system and provides the fastest return on investment. We require a minimal deposit, and payments are made in installments throughout the installation process. Velo Solar maintains relationships with banks and other lending institutions that offer competitive solar financing. Our lenders understand the value of solar investments and will work with you on a comfortable solar financing plan that fits your budget. PPAs provide third-party ownership options that allow you to install a solar energy system with little or no upfront cost. We install and maintain (and own) the system. You only pay for the electricity your solar system produces. The monthly payment is typically lower per kilowatt ($/kWh) than you pay on your current utility bill.

Contracts and Warranties

Your contract spells out all the project details and provides warranties on your solar system. At this point, we’ll help you with all the required paperwork for financing and other incentives you can tap to keep your costs as low as possible.

4. Engineer, Order Materials, Install

Most solar panel system installations are finished in just a few weeks. Our NABCEP-Certified Solar PV engineers handle every aspect of your installation including all stamped drawings, permits, installation and inspections.

5. Power Up

Once the utility company approves the installation, we flip the switch and verify production so your business starts running on clean, renewable energy on day one. And you can monitor your production in real time by using our energy monitoring software, PowerEnfo.

6. Quality Assurance

Your system is up and running and we’ve set up your PowerEnfo energy monitoring service. Now, we follow up to do a final thorough quality assurance check and establish your ongoing O+M schedule.

7. Ongoing System Maintenance

Velo Solar makes sure you understand from the outset what to expect from your solar system. And we stay with you to be sure it meets those expectations. Most systems require very little maintenance and we will help you handle any unforeseen issues that occur.

  • Provide PowerEnfo reports & alerts
  • Conduct scheduled operations maintenance
  • Handle warranties

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