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Commercial Solar Power: At What Point Is It Worth It. Rooftop solar commercial buildings

Commercial Solar Power: At What Point Is It Worth It. Rooftop solar commercial buildings

    Commercial Solar Roofing Solutions

    Day in and day out, commercial rooftops are flooded with free energy from the sun. Flat and expansive, they are the ideal host for solar panel installations, which can increase profitability, reduce operating costs, and limit emissions.

    New York is one of the leading states in terms of solar potential and offers a wide variety of incentives, rebates, and funding programs to help capitalize on its potential. But what if your roof needs work?

    EmPower Solar’s commercial rooftop program was designed to combine the process of roof replacement and solar installation to streamline project timelines and reduce costs.

    Let Solar Pay for Your Roof

    If your rooftop is 25,000 square feet or larger, EmPower Solar’s commercial rooftop program can:

    • Pay for your new roof with no out-of- costs through lease options or C-PACE financing
    • Provide you with a new income stream
    • Assist in meeting Local Law 97 compliance

    Is My Building Eligible?

    You may be eligible to participate in EmPower’s commercial roofing program if your building meets some or all of the criteria below.

    • Roof characteristics: total roof space of 25,000 square feet or more; large, flat rooftop that needs replacement
    • Commercial buildings: including manufacturing facilities, office buildings, storage centers, hospitals, assisted living centers, real estate investment trusts, etc.
    • Electric usage needs: owner occupied or single tenant buildings operating during peak demand hours; large steady loads such as HVAC systems

    Cover Your New Roof with Solar

    Learn how EmPower Solar’s commercial rooftop program can power your bottom line.

    Roofing Solar One-Stop Shop

    For systems 25,000 square feet and larger, EmPower Solar’s commercial installation program can:

    commercial, solar, power, point
    • Provide zero cost roofs to your clients through solar leases, C-PACE financing, and time-sensitive incentives
    • Offer your clients an additional income stream and coverage of a new roofing system at no cost.
    • Pay you a commission for referrals of new installations or previously installed systems.

    Partner with EmPower

    Learn how to expand your service offering by providing a turnkey commercial solar experience.

    EmPower Yourself with Our Solar Solutions

    Discover the best solar solution to meet your energy needs.

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    Commercial Solar Power: At What Point Is It Worth It?

    You’ve probably noticed the growing popularity of rooftop solar panel systems, but did you know that many companies are also installing solar panels? It’s true! In fact, commercial solar installations are often significantly more effective at generating vast amounts of renewable energy thanks to their wide, flat roofs. Read on to learn more about commercial solar power and at what point it’s worth it.

    How Commercial Solar Differs From Residential

    The largest difference between commercial and residential solar panel systems is the scope. Since a single home requires far less energy than a commercial building, homeowners can get away with smaller systems.

    Roof Restrictions

    Additionally, while most residential solar panel owners keep their systems on the roof, commercial systems don’t share the same limitation. While the roof is usually the first place that installers think to put solar panels, commercial buildings often have carports or lots with excess space for solar panels.

    Depending on your operation, you may even use a “power tower,” which is an array of mirrors designed to FOCUS rays onto your solar panels for better energy production.

    The angle of the roof also restricts residential solar owners. While it’s ideal to set up your solar panels so that they face south, you can’t do anything to change your home’s orientation. Commercial buildings typically have flat roofs, which means installers can easily orient solar panels to be in an optimal position.

    Efficient Options

    Finally, a commercial solar installation typically allows you to opt for the most efficient solar panels. Residential installations are often curtailed by the high cost of the initial investment, while commercial installations generally seek to find the quickest return on investment.

    efficient panels allow you to make back your money quickly, since you need less space, fewer materials, and less planning. On top of that, the most efficient systems also tend to last the longest.

    Commercial Solar Costs

    Since commercial applications require far more solar panels to create a viable renewable energy source, the initial investment cost is also higher. While no two businesses are the same, you can expect a commercial system for a small organization to cost around 50,000. If you have a large industrial facility, your system may end up costing closer to 1 million.

    While that number may seem high, remember that the speed of recouping your investment goes up as the scale of your system increases.

    Additionally, remember that tax credits, rebates, and government incentives exist for businesses just as they do for residential systems. For example, the federal solar tax credit allows you to deduct 26 percent of the cost of the system.

    Benefits of Commercial Solar

    If you’re familiar with the benefits of solar panels for residential settings, you also know how incredible solar power can be for commercial applications. The only difference is that the scale of the benefits is much larger.

    Average residential energy production with solar panels is between five and 10 kW, while many commercial solar panel systems can easily produce 50kW—your business may produce 10 times more energy than a residential system!


    If your business is committed to sustainability, installing solar panels is an effective way of showing it. Conventional energy generation emits hundreds (and sometimes thousands, depending on the size of your business) of metric tons of carbon dioxide. The 50-kW system we mentioned before can produce about 65,000 kWh of clean energy every year.

    commercial, solar, power, point

    Consumers consistently choose to support companies that communicate eco-friendliness as one of their core tenets, so solar energy gives you the opportunity to present a concrete way that your business is helping fight climate change.


    You know better than most that energy costs are among the most expensive aspects of running a business. Energy Star estimates that America’s small businesses spend over 60 billion on electricity every year, and those costs are not projected to go down in time.

    commercial, solar, power, point

    Solar panel systems give you the opportunity to offset your energy costs predictably with fixed rates. Since most solar panels last around 25 years, you can reliably budget energy costs for the next few decades. After a few years of savings, you’ll pay off the initial investment and you can reinvest all that money into your organization.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Before you pull the trigger and call us about commercial solar installation, check out these frequently asked questions to put your mind at ease.

    What Value Do Solar Panels Give?

    Solar panels are an invaluable asset for any business. They can help you offset huge chunks (if not all) of your energy costs while fostering an image of sustainability for your company. With all the governmental incentives to get into solar power, there’s no better time than now to make the investment for your company.

    How Many Panels Will You Need?

    Your solar panel needs will vary greatly from other businesses. There are a few ways to calculate the number of solar panels you will need. You may need to maximize space with fewer high-efficiency panels, or you may have all the space in the world and want to opt for less expensive options. Usually, businesses purchase only the panels they need to offset their energy costs—to determine this magic number, you should reach out to a local solar installer and get a proposal.

    Can You Use Them in Industrial and Commercial Applications?

    Of course! Most of the time, commercial and industrial applications are more valuable than residential panels. As the scale of your system increases, the price-per-watt decreases, which means you get more bang for your buck. Since commercial and industrial applications don’t preclude you from net metering, solar tax credits, and other deductions, it’s a great investment.

    How Long Is the Installation Process?

    The installation process is typically longer for commercial applications than residential systems. Depending on the size you’re hoping for, installation can take weeks or months to complete. The easiest way to learn how long your installation will take is to contact an installer and get a quote.

    Now that you know more about commercial solar power and when it’s worth it, reach out to us to get a solar quote today. You’ll never believe how much money you can save with this incredible process!

    Stop Paying For Electricity. Own It!

    Once you decide to get solar, we take care of it from start to finish. We will provide the design, permitting, equipment, installation, interconnection, monitoring, and service after the installation. We want everyone to go solar and we truly believe that we and our clients can all win in the process.

    Commercial solar panels: Costs, benefits best installers

    Solar power is low-hanging fruit for businesses that want to cut their operating costs and improve their bottom line. As a handy bonus, switching to solar also reduces their carbon footprint and demonstrates to consumers and stakeholders that their organization is committed to sustainability and the transition to renewable energy.

    An increasing number of businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies have already caught onto this fact: commercial solar is now estimated to account for close to a third of solar power generation in the U.S., after growing in size over 15 times between 2009 and 2021.

    Are you a business owner or organizational decision-maker who’s considering commercial solar power? Or just curious about considering solar power for your organization? This blog will tell you what you need to know.

    We’ll explain the costs and benefits and discuss the best companies for installing solar panels for your organization.

    What is commercial solar?

    Commercial solar is the term used to describe solar panel installations in the commercial and industrial (CI) sector.

    It is a broad category that covers all solar power use outside of the residential segment (solar panels for home) or the utility segment (solar power plants aka solar farms). As such, commercial solar doesn’t just cover businesses, but government organizations and nonprofits, as well.

    Examples of businesses and organizations that use commercial solar energy systems installations include:

    • Commercial office buildings
    • Farms, ranches, and vineyards
    • Factories and warehouses
    • Hospitals and clinics
    • Schools and daycare centers
    • Shopping malls and retail outlets
    • Parking garages, parking lots, etc

    As you can see, there’s a whole spectrum of organizations that can take advantage of solar power.

    Where can commercial solar systems be installed?

    Given the range of organizations that can use commercial solar panels. and the diversity of locations that they work out of. commercial solar systems are installed in a wide variety of different structures and settings.

    This is a far cry from residential solar panels, which are overwhelmingly on the rooftops of homes, and utility-scale plants, which are typically ground-mounted solar farms.

    Here are some of the many locations where commercial solar panels can be installed:

    • Commercial building rooftops and awnings
    • Ballasted on a flat roof or other flat surfaces
    • Barns and sheds
    • Pergolas, gazebos, and patio covers
    • Carports and parking shades
    • Pole mounts
    • Water bodies such as ponds and artificial lakes (‘floatovoltaics’)

    How much do commercial solar systems cost?

    According to the Solar Energy Industries Association. also referred to as SEIA, commercial solar panel systems cost an average of 1.45 per watt as of Q4 2021. This is slightly less than half the cost of systems installed on homes ( 3.06 ).

    Based on these average cost figures, we can estimate the cost of commercial solar power systems of various sizes:

    Commercial system cost by system size

    15 kW Retail outlet, clinic, etc. 21,750
    75 kW Farm, warehouse, etc. 108,750
    350 kW Factory, hospital, school, etc. 507,500

    Solar installation costs by market segment

    Average cost per watt for residential (‘resi’), commercial (‘non-resi’) and utility-scale solar. Image source: SEIA Solar Market Insight Report 2021 Q4

    Do bear in mind that the average figures hide a large distribution in prices. For example, cost per watt tends to fall as system size increases, thanks to economies of scale. There are also many other factors that can cause to vary, such as location (costs vary by state), type of mounting system, difficulty of installation, and more.

    Also keep in mind that the costs listed above are before applying any incentives, which can substantially reduce costs. Check out the following section for more details about incentives and rebates.

    Commercial solar panel incentives and benefits

    There are many compelling reasons for businesses, government organizations, and nonprofits to go solar. Here are the major incentives and benefits of commercial solar panel systems:

    • Solar tax credit and other incentives
    • Electric bill offset
    • MACRS depreciation
    • Multiple financing options
    • Green credentials
    • Quick payback period

    We discuss each of these benefits below.

    Solar tax credit and other incentives

    The Clean Energy Credit. more commonly known as the solar tax credit. is equal to 30% of the cost of installing a solar panel system.

    So if your organization pays 50,000 to install a solar power system, it will receive a 15,000 credit when it files its taxes. You can learn more about using the solar tax credit for commercial solar installations in this guide from the Department of Energy; just note that with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 the full 30% tax credit is now available through 2032.

    States, utilities, and local governments may provide additional incentives for organizations that go solar. Make sure to check what incentives are available in your area.

    commercial, solar, power, point

    Are you a homeowner? See all incentives and rebates for residential solar in your area

    Lower operating costs through electric bill offset

    Commercial solar power systems can be designed to offset 100% of an organization’s electricity bill.

    Full electric bill offset is particularly easy if you install a grid-tied system, which allows you to export surplus power to the grid and import power to meet shortfalls when needed. Further, if net metering is available, you’ll even earn the full retail rate for the power you export!

    Full electric bill offset means:

    • Protection against utility rate hikes: As you are producing and consuming your own power, you are less affected by any future electricity price increases.
    • Positive cash flow: Many organizations that go solar see this benefit from Month One as the loan repayments (if you financed the panels) can cost less than the bill savings.
    • Free electricity: Once your solar panels are paid off, you’re essentially powering your organization for free.

    MACRS depreciation

    The cost recovery period for solar energy equipment under a modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) is just five (5) years.

    This means that businesses will benefit from a large reduction in their tax liabilities in their first five years of owning the asset; this is extremely favorable considering solar panels have a warranted life of at least 25 years.

    MACRS can be used in conjunction with the solar tax credit. The project’s cost basis is reduced by half the value of the solar tax credit. So, if you use the 30% tax credit, you’ll reduce the asset’s cost basis to 85%.

    Flexible purchase and lease options

    Organizations can choose to finance their solar panels in one of three ways:

    • Solar loan: You take a loan to purchase the solar panels and make monthly repayments over 5-20 years
    • Solar lease(aka renting solar): You pay a solar company a fixed monthly rate (‘rent’) for the use of their solar panels
    • Power purchase agreement (PPA): You agree to purchase the power generated from the solar panels at an agreed rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh)

    Solar systems bought with a solar loan are eligible for the tax credit; this is not the case with solar leases and PPAs. Solar loans generally offer the best return on investment and are the preferred option for property owners.

    Alignment of generation and consumption

    Solar power generation and electricity consumption tend to align closely in commercial solar panel installations. That’s because most organizations consume electricity during the day, when the sun is out and solar panels are generating power.

    This alignment results in a higher degree of solar power self-consumption. This means that in commercial solar, there is generally:

    • Less need for energy storage. a good thing, as battery solutions increase solar’s upfront costs and payback periods
    • Increased savings in places where net metering (full retail rate for solar exports) is unavailable

    This is in marked contrast with what happens in homes and the grid in general, which see a major spike in electricity consumption after sunset, exactly when solar panel output drops. This imbalance is known as the Duck Curve, and often needs to be addressed with expensive battery solutions.

    Quick payback period

    The combination of incentives, utility bill savings, and the MACRS depreciation tax benefits means that commercial solar payments can offer a great return on investment. in some cases as short as just 2-3 years.

    That is a very short payback period, especially considering how long solar panels are designed to last. You can expect your solar panels to last at least 25-30 years, which is the amount of time most performance warranty periods are offered on current solar panel models.

    Green credentials

    It’s well-known that businesses that listen to what their consumers want thrive. and, conversely, those that don’t are doomed to fail. And when it comes to climate change and the well-being of our planet, the majority of consumers feel very strongly:

    • 60% of U.S. adults believe that climate change is a major threat to the nation
    • 79% say they are changing their buying preferences based on environmental impact, social responsibility, or inclusiveness

    Companies need to show that they’re responsive to these concerns by demonstrating their commitment to clean energy and sustainability. A great way to achieve this is by installing shiny, new solar panels to power their operations, which depict direct and visible positive change.

    Corporate giants like Apple, Amazon, Google, Target, and Walmart have caught on to this fact, and are installing massive amounts of solar capacity while announcing ambitious plans to completely transition to clean energy.

    Your solar project doesn’t need to be as big as those of the tech and retail giants in order to make a difference. The image below, for example, shows a plant nursery with a small solar array, ingeniously designed to produce clean energy while offering shade to plants and customers alike.

    Solar also can also save money for your home. get a cost and savings estimate

    Compared: residential, commercial, and utility-scale solar energy

    Many of our readers have knowledge about solar panels for homes, or even about solar farms, but are less familiar with commercial solar.

    Here is how commercial solar compares to other segments of solar:

    Comparing residential, commercial, and utility-scale solar

    System size 3-10 kW 10 kW-1 MW 1 MW
    Typical panel size 60-cell (39 x 66) 60-cell (39″ x 66″) / 72-cell (39″ x 77″) 72-cell (39″ x 77″)
    Typical panel wattage 300-375 W 300-450 W 375-450 W
    Total space requirements 140-700 sq ft 700 sq ft – 6 acres 6 acres
    Cost per watt 3.06 / 2.75-3.35 1.45 0.89–1.01
    Eligible for 30% tax credit Yes Yes No
    Depreciation tax benefits No Yes Yes
    Permitting time Weeks Months Months to years

    If you want to learn more about residential solar installations, do check out our blog or our advanced solar calculator, which can tell you everything you need to know about installing solar panels for your home, including cost and savings figures.

    Best commercial solar companies

    Over the years, SolarReviews has compiled the best online resources for unbiased consumer reviews of solar companies.

    Based on their review scores, here are the most highly-rated solar companies performing commercial solar installations:

    Top 15 commercial solar installers nationwide

    1. Solar Bear FL 4.97 (409 reviews)
    2. Arizona Solar Wave AZ 4.92 (219 reviews)
    3. Renova Energy CA 4.92 (361 reviews)
    4. SunVena Solar LLC FL 4.91 (95 reviews)
    5. Lumina Solar MD, PA 4.91 (94 reviews)
    6. Positive Energy Solar NM 4.91 (94 reviews)
    7. Harvest Power LLC NY 4.90 (190 reviews)
    8. Cosmic Solar Inc CA 4.89 (271 reviews)
    9. Affordable Home Solar CA 4.88 (69 reviews)
    10. Celestial Solar Innovations MD 4.88 (101 reviews)
    11. Solar Centex TX 4.87 (126 reviews)
    12. SUNation Solar Systems NY 4.86 (250 reviews)
    13. All Energy Solar MA, MN, NH, WI 4.86 (302 reviews)
    14. Long Island Power Solutions NY 4.85 (98 reviews)
    15. Mass Renewables MA 4.85 (142 reviews)

    When calculating review scores, SolarReviews gives higher weightage to more recent reviews, to ensure that review scores give a more accurate reflection of the company’s current performance. You can read more about our rating system here.

    You may be wondering about the absence of solar behemoths like Tesla and Sunrun. Both companies failed to feature in this list as their review scores were too low. 2.9/5.0 for Tesla and 1.7/5.0 for Sunrun. They don’t just fare poorly on SolarReviews, but on websites like Yelp, as well.

    Key takeaways

    • Commercial solar. also known as Commercial Industrial (CI) Solar. describes the use of solar energy by a range of different organization types, including businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits.
    • Commercial solar systems cost an average of 1.45 per watt, or roughly half the price of residential systems.
    • Organizations going solar enjoy many benefits and incentives: the solar tax credit, electric bill offset, MACRS depreciation, a quick payback, and green bragging rights.
    • SolarReviews has compiled a list of the best commercial solar installers based on consumer reviews.

    Zeeshan Hyder

    SolarReviews Blog Author

    Zeeshan is passionate about promoting renewable energy and tackling climate change. He developed these interests while studying at beautiful Middlebury College, Vermont, which has a strong FOCUS on sustainability. He has previously worked in the humanitarian sector — for Doctors Without Borders — and in communications and journalism.

    Michigan Solar Solutions is the Experienced Choice for Commercial Solar Installation Projects

    Our mission is to offer commercial clients lower and more predictable electric costs with onsite solar solutions, rate plan analysis and the use of battery technologies.

    If you are concerned by continuously increasing electric utility costs or demand charges we have a tailored solution for you. Some customers have seen utility savings of 50-100% and an almost risk-free solar return on investment of 8% or more annually.

    Michigan Solar Solutions seeks to develop an in-depth knowledge of your business operations and functions to make detailed recommendations that will fit your broader energy strategy. With over 13 years of commercial solar experience, we have developed projects as small as a single panel and as large as hundreds of panels.

    Partner with us and benefit not only your business’s triple bottom line but also reap the benefits of marketing, sustainable reporting, supply chain compliance, employee retention and the opportunity to be an industry leader.

    We Can Develop a Solution That Fits the Needs of Your Business

    Whether your concerns are Demand Fees, or rising electrical rates, we have a tailored solution. The first step is for us to better understand what your goals are. Some companies we have worked with have had goals such as; compliance with a corporate Green Plan, reducing ridiculously high demand fees, marketing to their customer base and lowering their electricity costs. Schedule a free consultation today.

    Farms and rural small businesses can install a solar array and qualify for a USDA REAP grant that will pay 25%, receive a 30% tax credit, and receive an Accelerated Bonus Depreciation Allowance. When you take all of this into consideration, a 60,000 solar array could have a net out-of- of less than 10,000. Further, there are Federally backed loans to fund solar electric projects.

    With the savings you will realize on your electric bill (because now your electricity is created with your solar array), the system could pay for itself in as little as five years. This could save you over 100,000 in the array warranty period, alone. The array itself is a great long-term investment, with the life expectancy of over 40 years.

    Michigan Solar Solutions can help rural small businesses and farmers understand the saving and benefits of solar power and write the USDA REAP grant application for FREE (a 2,000 value). We can provide you with a free solar analysis to see if solar is right for you. Michigan Solar Solutions works with several financial organizations to help you get financing, including Green Stone Farm Credit Services.

    Many times, a house of worship receives donations that they use for a new fellowship hall, youth center, or the like. Once this money is spent, they are forevermore saddled with increased heating bills, light bills, janitorial bills, and maintenance bills. This uses already scarce operating funds limiting community outreach and mission projects even more. Many houses of worship have instead taken the money and used it on energy efficiency projects and solar electric power. What this accomplishes is freeing up operating funds to do more community outreach and mission projects.

    Michigan Solar Solutions feel that municipal entities (cities, towns, and townships) have more than an opportunity, they must lead renewable energy efforts. Increasingly, people consider a community commitment to the environment when choosing where to live and where to do business.

    Be a leader with green energy to help run your buildings or programs. Solar power has many benefits beyond saving energy:

    • wb_sunny Reduce your carbon footprint
    • wb_sunny Save money
    • wb_sunny Show your donors and constituents that you are committed to sustainability and the future of the organization

    Michigan Solar Solutions is affiliated with investors that offer private leasing options to non-profit organizations. This arrangement can save your organization up to 20% off their annual electric bill the first year. Your lease payment will be fixed, but the savings increase each year as the price of electricity goes up (4-6% annually in Michigan).

    Michigan Solar Solutions believes that to propagate the deployment of solar, we require education to mold the minds of our children. What better way to teach your students about green power, solar panels, and wind turbines than to have them installed in your school district? and more, parents include green values when choosing schools for their children. Michigan Solar Solutions staff has more than 25 years of experience supporting Michigan Schools, either with green power, grant assistance, or in other industries.

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