How to Size a Commercial Solar System
How do you design a solar system and stick to a budget? How many panels do you need for peak performance? Here’s to answer your questions.
Solar has become more efficient and affordable, which should interest any savvy business owner looking to cut down on energy costs. But how do you design a solar system and stick to a budget? How many panels do you need for peak performance?
Bell Solar Electrical Systems is here to answer all of your burning questions.
What Sizes Are Available For Commercial Solar Systems?
Every solar panel’s size depends on the number of photovoltaic or PV solar cells. Since commercial panels have more PV cells than residential ones, they are more powerful and bigger.
Keep in mind, though, your business’s power consumption requirements, available roof space, and budget are what will determine how many solar panels you need and the overall size of the system.
How Big Are Commercial Solar Panels?
Typically, every PV solar cell measures six inches by six inches. Commercial solar panels have anywhere from 72 to 98 or more PV solar cells. This means, on average, they’re about 6½ feet long, 3 feet wide, and weigh around 50 pounds.
In comparison, residential solar panels only have 60 PV cells, so they’re usually about a foot smaller and weigh 42 pounds or so.
While commercial panels are designed to meet the energy demands of any business, you’ll still need to figure out the requisite commercial solar panel size that will meet your energy demands and fit your space. For instance, there are high-efficiency panels that are smaller and make the most out of an available space — and then there are larger ones that are less efficient but more affordable.
Keep reading to learn more about how to size a commercial solar system for your business.
Factors to Take Into Account Before Sizing
Before you size your commercial solar power system, crunch some numbers to determine a budget and assess your available space. Also, are you looking into solar incentives or tax investment credits? Fo you have an unusual shape to your roof and are wondering if a ground array might work better?
Next, you’ll want to consider the following as well:
- Average daily, monthly, and yearly sunlight exposure
- Local climate and Cloud coverage
- The “orientation array” or tilt of the tiles toward the sun (usually south-facing is best)
- Efficiency and reliability of different manufacturing brands
- The timeline of a panel’s warranty, re: the natural degradation of the PV cells
- Any future energy needs or expansion calculations
This list isn’t meant to be daunting, but rather gives you a solid foundation for success when you make the switch to commercial solar energy. However, if you have questions or concerns, contact Bell Solar Electrical Systems today.
Steps to Size a Commercial Solar System
Each of these five steps will help you properly size a commercial solar system for your business and avoid oversizing or overbuying. It takes into account your energy usage, peak sun hours for where you’re located, and then offers some final insights to refine your system.
Once your system is installed, you’ll see benefits for years to come, since now, more than ever, is the best time to invest in clean energy and switch to solar.
1) Figure out your yearly energy usage
On every electric bill, you will see a section with your kWh or kilowatt-hours. This is your energy usage and how your utility company determines what to charge you. It’s also how you’ll figure out your energy consumption averages.
Start by assessing an entire year. Notice when your usage dips and when it peaks.
2) Figure out your monthly and daily energy usage
To get a rough idea of your monthly average, add up each month’s kWh throughout a calendar year, and divide by 12. Then, take that number and divide by thirty for your daily average.
Keep in mind that your commercial power system will likely overproduce in the summer due to all those extra sunny days. Some utility companies buyback that wattage from you or apply it to your account as a credit — especially in Nevada.
Also, you can Google appliance energy consumption tables and calculators if you want to delve further into your energy usage.
3) Figure out your peak sunshine hours
Peak sun hours refers to the measured intensity of sunshine in a specific area for one hour, when its energy averages about 1000 watts per square meter.
Google “peak sun charts” and then look for your closest city to find the peak sunshine of your locale. For instance, Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of the sunniest places in the U.S. and its peak sun averages about 6.41 hours in total.
4) Calculate your commercial solar system size
Now that you have your energy usage numbers, along with your peak sunshine hours, you can plug those into a formula to figure out how to size a commercial solar system for your brick and mortar.
A quick note, you will need to know a solar panel’s efficiency to get the correct number. The number provided, 1.15, is simply an example.
(Daily kWh ÷ average peak sun # of hours) ✖ panel efficiency factor
= DC (Direct Current) Solar System Size
(30 kWh ÷ 6.41 hours) ✖ 1.15 efficiency factor = 5.38 kW
Convert the 5.38 kW to watts by multiplying it by 1,000. In our example, your business would need a 5380 watts-sized solar system. And if each panel is 350 watts, you’d need around 15 panels.
5) Final Tweaks
There are a few final tweaks to consider when you have to size a commercial solar system. First, the available space and whether your building’s roof is a viable option. If not, you can look into alternatives such as pole-mounted panels or ground arrays.
From there, you can figure out whether you should opt for smaller, more high-efficiency panels or go with a larger size. To help you with this, you can utilize the PV Watts Calculator by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to simulate your solar output. (There are instructions on the website to help you plug in the correct numbers.)
Finally, you can start researching and comparing different manufacturers, equipment, and panels.
Toss Your Electric Bill And Get a Tax Break
After you size a commercial solar system and know what panels you’d like to buy, it’s time for installation and a stellar return on investment.
Nevada utility companies have some of the highest rates in the United States for “net metering,” i.e. buying back your solar panel energy output. Also, with generous tax breaks and subsidies, solar panels pay for themselves within four to five years. And currently, the federal tax investment credit is at 26%, but it is set to go down over the next two years.
Tap Into Renewable Energy With a Commercial Solar System From Bell Solar Electrical
Solar is an excellent, eco-friendly choice that pays dividends for business owners. From tax breaks, to eradicating your electric bill, to shrinking your carbon footprint — this is the time to invest in renewable energy.
But in order to fully capitalize on solar energy, you’ll need to figure out your energy consumption and account for peak sun hours in your locale. Also, investigate your available space and figure out a budget. Altogether, this will help you pick the right panels in terms of efficiency, reliability, and size. (You don’t want to overbuy.)
Commercial solar panels can meet the energy demands of your business and save you money. Contact Bell Solar Electrical Systems today with your solar installation questions and receive a free quote.
Commercial Solar PV: 4 Design Tips to Boost Your Return on Investment
According to the Q4 2021 report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a commercial solar array has an average cost of 1.45 per watt in the US. You can expect a service life of 25 years or more when using high-quality solar panels, and their payback period can be less than 6 years with favorable site conditions.
Purchasing an asset with a service life much longer than its payback period is an excellent investment. However, this is only true if the solar PV system is properly designed and installed. Here we will share four design tips that can help improve your ROI when using solar power in commercial buildings.
) The Service Life of Solar Panels and Commercial Roofs Should Match
High-quality solar panels can last for more than 25 years, and many manufacturers now offer a matching 25-year product warranty. To take advantage of this durability, solar panels should be used on commercial roofs that will have the same service life. A roof replacement can be an expensive project, and costs are even higher when you must remove and reinstall a solar array. Also keep in mind that solar panels and other components may be damaged during the process, and you will most likely lose the warranty.
Considering this, the best time to install solar panels on a commercial building is right after construction when the roof is new, or along with a planned roof replacement. The worst-case scenario is being forced to replace a roof with solar panels installed, especially if they are relatively new. The additional cost of removing and reinstalling solar panels will consume a major portion of their lifetime savings: the ownership cost becomes much higher, and your ROI is drastically reduced.
) The Solar Panel Layout Should Consider Maintenance Needs
Commercial roofs are often used for HVAC equipment like cooling towers and air-cooled chillers, and they also have drainage systems and vents. If you’re considering a solar PV array, its layout should not interfere with the operation and maintenance of these systems. The maintenance needs of the roof itself must also be taken into account.
To optimize your roof layout, an easy solution is working with the same engineering firm for the commercial solar design and MEP design. This will ensure that all equipment has enough clearance for maintenance, and you will also meet the rooftop access requirements of local fire codes.
Ideally, the commercial solar array should be split into groups of panels, with enough spacing for maintenance. With this layout, you can easily access a specific panel or roof location if necessary. On the other hand, when a commercial solar array lacks spacing between rows of panels, reaching the center is very difficult.
) Consider a Reflective Roof Surface with Bifacial Solar Panels
As the operating temperature of solar panels increases, their productivity drops. This loss is typically 0.5% per °C or less when using high-quality PV modules, but it adds up as the temperature rises. For example, a 24°C rise in the operating temperature of solar panels will result in a productivity drop of up to 12%.
- Solar panels tend to have a higher operating temperature on opaque roofs, since they absorb more sunlight.
- By using a reflective roof surface, you can reduce the temperature of solar panels and improve their electricity output.
You can achieve even better results with bifacial solar panels, which have their photovoltaic cells exposed from above and below. This means they generate power with sunlight that reaches them directly, just like conventional solar panels, but also with sunlight reflected by the roof.
) Make Sure the Solar Racking System Is Suitable for Your Commercial Roof
A commercial solar array will not damage your roof, as long as the racking system is compatible with its materials and structure. To achieve this, there must be clear communication between the roof designers and the solar designers. The roof must have enough structural capacity for the solar array, especially when using a ballasted racking system, which has additional weight.
Roof and solar racking materials must also be compatible, since they will remain in contact for more than two decades. You should avoid material combinations that will have corrosion or abrasion issues.
Ballasted racking systems are the easiest to install, since they are based on weight with no roof penetrations involved. However, ballasted racking systems are also heavier, and you may have abrasion issues in windy places. Solar racking systems with penetrating mounts involve more work, but they are better suited for commercial roofs that are constantly exposed to high winds.
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.
and more enterprises are benefiting from installing commercial and business solar panels to help reduce energy bills and reduce carbon footprint.
With over a decade of experience in installing business and commercial solar panels across the UK, at Low Carbon Energy, we’ve provided a vast range of energy-saving solutions to business premises large and small.
To date, we’ve installed over 12MW (48,000 panels) of commercial solar, and have implemented commercial solar systems ranging from 10kw much larger 2MW systems – all on various types of roof structures within many challenging environments.
Commercial Solar Panel Solutions In The UK And Ireland
Though we’re headquartered in Lancashire, UK, in recent years we’ve expanded our presence to Galway in Ireland. Ever since then, we’ve been delivering outstanding results for a range of organisations across a variety of sectors. Our experience with solar PV in Ireland means we’re able to help our Irish customers make significant savings on their energy bills, cut their carbon footprint, meet their sustainability objectives and secure their energy supply for years to come.
Some of our previous happy customers include Irish water, the national water utility of Ireland – we produced a 100kWp solar PV system, saving them 52,739kg of carbon emissions annually, while generating 87,899 kWh of clean electricity every year. You can read more about the project over in our case studies.
Financial Benefits of Solar Panels For Businesses
One of the most obvious and attractive financial benefits of commercial solar is that is allows you to rely less on the National Grid. That means you benefit from reduced utility costs and increased energy security – since you’re not drawing from the national supply, you’re not as heavily affected by all the spikes and troughs in the market. (That’s especially valuable in today’s turbulent climate!)
There’s also the fact that if your surplus energy ends up exceeding your usage as a business, you can even sell it back to the National Grid for profit, making it a handy additional income stream.
Commercial solar panels are cheap to install, and most will often pay for themselves in a relatively short timeframe. The technology is already up to 70% cheaper than it was in 2010, and getting cheaper all the time. Crucially, solar panels are very low-maintenance, so you can rely on them to maintain peak efficiency for a very long time.
Environmental Benefits Of Solar Panels For Commercial Premises
Commercial solar panels provide a reliable and effective way of reducing your climate footprint, which often makes them an integral part of any long-term sustainability strategy. The volume of carbon emissions you could potentially save can be especially high if you run a corporation, or a business with lots of power-intensive facilities and assets, such as a manufacturing company.
Alongside this, they can serve as a very clear and visible sign of your green credentials. This can put you one step ahead of your competitors in today’s increasingly climate-conscious society, where customers, investors and business partners are often making decisions about which businesses to associate with based on their commitment to climate or environmental goals. Many investors in particular are using the ESG criteria (Environmental, Social and Governance) to ethically judge their investments. You can find out more about this over on our CSR page at Low Carbon Energy.
Roof Mounted Solar Panels Businesses
Roof-mounted commercial solar panel installations are the default for many businesses, especially those working in factories and other large commercial or industrial sites, as it allows them to make highly effective use of a space that generally would have gone unutilised otherwise. The size of a roof-mounted installation is dependent on a couple of factors – not just how much available space you have on your roofs, but also your specific energy profile (which we can calculate on your behalf here at Low Carbon Energy, drawing on our own industry-leading expertise).
In case you’re wondering, you’re unlikely to need planning permission for your roof mounted commercial solar panel installation, as the majority of them fall under the category of Permitted Development. This varies slightly if you’re trying to have it installed on (or very close to) a listed building, but if that’s the case, we can always provide you with tailored support and advice as to your available options.
Ground Mounted Solar Panels For Business And Commercial Use
The requirements for ground mounted solar panels are slightly more stringent than they are for roof mounted installations – but only slightly. As you’d expect, ground-mounted installations have the potential to affect their immediate surroundings a bit more than their roof-mounted counterparts, and so most of the planning stipulations are focused on limiting the possibility for any negative aesthetic or practical impacts.
For example, the size of the array should be no more than 9 square metres, or 3m wide by 3m deep. Similarly, they have to be installed at least 5m from the boundary of a property. In the exact words of the government’s planning portal, a ground mounted solar installation “should be sited, so far as is practiceable, to minimise its effect on the amenity of the area”. That may make them a trickier option for smaller businesses, but don’t forget our experts are always on hand to lend their expertise here at Low Carbon Energy.
Why Install Solar Panels For Your Business?
No matter what your sector or industry, rest assured your business can reap huge advantages from installing commercial solar panels.
Whether you’re looking to cut costs, reduce your carbon footprint or future proof your business energy supply, the installation of commercial solar panels can offer your business the perfect energy solution.
For a significant number of our customers, the recent exponential rise in energy has been a major factor in their decision to get commercial solar panels. So far, there have been no signs of these price rises tapering off at any point in the immediate future, so future-proofing your business against them has never been so important. Commercial solar panels protect you from market fluctuations by allowing you to forward-buy your energy at more economical – blunting the impact of high energy bills, saving you money and giving you peace of mind.
Why Invest In Solar PV?
- Enjoy a levelised cost of electricity (potentially as as low as £0.03/kWh) for your energy
- Significantly reduce your energy usage and spend
- RETURNS OF UP TO (AND IN EXCESS OF) 20%
- 100% asset finance available
- Meet your CSR objectives
- Secured electricity for 25 years
- Low maintenance
- Minimal disruption to your business
Business Solar Installation Case Studies
Customers who have taken control of their energy with low carbon
The Benefits Of Commercial Solar Panels For Businesses
To expand upon these in a little more detail…
Considerable Cost Savings For Your Business
A newfound ability to generate clean, free energy during daytime hours allows you to be less reliant on the National Grid, which is facing increasing pressure to effectively meet UK demand. Though the exact level of savings can shift back and forth over time, many businesses have been able to slash their energy costs by as much as half.
Financial Stability And Energy Security/Flexibility
For a little while now energy have been steadily on the rise, which means more cost for your business later on down the line. However, by sourcing your energy from commercial solar panels, you’re effectively forward-buying your electricity at a set cost. This gives you a great measure of protection from fluctuating market and provides an extra safeguard against the effects of future regulation, making financial forecasting much easier. As well as this energy security, solar panels also give you increased flexibility on whether to use this energy immediately, sell it or store it for use at a later date.
A Greatly Reduced Carbon Footprint
Many modern businesses are finding that their energy demand is only increasing over time, as digital processes and automated equipment take more and more traditional roles from humans and manual methods. That makes carbon footprint a major item on our collective agenda, and it’s a concern neatly addressed by the use of commercial solar panels. Installing solar PV can considerably cut down on your business’ carbon emissions, allowing you to optimise your sustainable business strategy.
Improved Public Perception Through CSR
On a related note, growing environmental concern across the globe means that businesses now have more responsibility than ever to make sure their operations are having minimal environmental impact. (This is what Corporate Social Responsibility refers to.)
Today, consumers are more environmentally-aware than ever before, and research continues to show that they’re attracted most towards businesses who are able to prove their commitment to environmental initiatives. Using commercial solar panels to produce your energy is a great public demonstration of this commitment, and can result in improved lead generation and greater sales for your business.
How Much Do Commercial Solar Panels Cost Businesses?
If you can’t afford this though, don’t worry! There’s a wide variety of finance options and ways to pay when it comes to commercial solar panels.
For example, you may be eligible for a power purchase agreement. Essentially, this involves the installation of solar panels on the roof of your premises at no cost to your business. The electricity generated from these is then purchased back from the funder at a greatly reduced rate compared to normal suppliers. This method can easily allow you to save hundreds or even thousands of pounds, while benefitting the funder too. Everyone wins!
We offer a number ourselves here at Low Carbon Energy, which you can find on our Ways To Pay page. These currently include:
- 100% Finance – our network of finance partners allows us to offer competitive options tailored to suit your business
- Free Solar – a low-cost, flexible, unsecured loan
Do You Need Planning Permission For Commercial Solar Panels?
You will definitely need planning permission if your solar panels are going to be installed on any sites of historical interest, such as listed buildings, ancient monuments or world heritage sites. Of course, here at Low Carbon Energy we’re always happy to advise on any planning requirements for installations, whatever their size or scale.
How Efficient Are Commercial Solar Panels?
The rate at which solar panels convert sunlight into energy is always measured in percentages. If we say that the sun produces 100% energy, solar panels generally process anywhere between 15% to 22% of that into usable energy. It might not sound like much, but trust us, it’s enough to save you thousands!
What Affects Commercial Solar Panel Efficiency?
- Snow and ice
- Chemical residue
- UV degradation
- Rain and humidity
- Insulation resistance
- Thermal cycling
It goes without saying that all the commercial solar panels we supply at Low Carbon Energy are subject to rigorous manufacturing standards, and we provide an ongoing planned maintenance programme to help ensure that your panels maintain optimum efficiency and performance.