Getting up and running with commercial solar power

September 15, 2016



Step 1: Learn more

Become a thought leader on installing solar

Solar equipmentUnderstanding the pieces and considerations of a commercial solar installation will help you make the best decision for your company. Learning the basic system components is a good first step:

  • Solar panels: Absorb the sun’s rays as a source of energy for generating electricity
  • Inverter: Converts power generated by solar panels into useable electricity
  • Meter: Tracks how much electricity is generated, used or fed into the power grid
  • Balance of system: Includes all components beyond the actual solar panels, including wiring, mounting systems, inverters, switches, battery banks and more

But don’t stop there. A little research can go a long way.


Step 2: Build internal support

Share your new solar knowledge with key players

Win stakeholder support by making the benefits of solar relevant to their role. Explain that solar:


Step 3: Choose a solar partner

Take time to find the right provider

Not all technologies or partners are the same, and cost may not be the most important factor. Consider the following when selecting a solar provider:

A well-crafted request for proposal (RFP) that engages key leaders in your company can help you find the best fit for a relationship that should continue for many years.


Step 4: Plan your commercial solar system

Make decisions about your installation


Depending on your site, facilities and energy needs, each type of solar installation has its own strengths and limitations (in addition to varying costs). For example:

  • Rooftop: Requires consideration of roof integrity and angle, as well as the area’s climate, when you install solar panels on commercial buildings
  • Ground-mounted: Takes advantage of large open spaces, but you must also carefully evaluate ground slope, shade and climate
  • Carport: Provides covered parking along with renewable energy, but you need to have an open parking area


Commercial solar financing

In order to determine your appropriate system size, the provider will look at your electricity needs as well as expected solar panel performance. They will likely: 

  • Review a year’s worth of electricity bills to figure out anticipated energy requirements
  • Calculate electricity costs based on current utility rates and schedules
  • Take into account panel efficiency and yield, plus irradiance (the rate sunlight hits a surface) to estimate how much energy the solar panels will produce


Choose the right commercial solar financing option based on your needs and future plans.

  • Purchase: Enjoy all the benefits of owning a solar installation directly
  • Lease: Pay a monthly fee for the solar equipment and benefit from the energy produced
  • Power purchase agreement (PPA): Host a system owned and operated by a third party and buy the solar electricity produced

Learn more in How businesses and public entities can pay for solar.


Final Step: Installation

Work with an experienced, local solar installer who knows about:

  • Their suppliers’ products
  • Relevant product and safety standards
  • Local regulatory requirements, including grid connection
  • Your area’s climate, soil conditions, typical architecture and building materials
  • Installations similar to the one you’re planning

Once your solar installation is complete, begin enjoying the benefits of your solar investment by generating your own clean, renewable energy.


Related links:

The 4 phases of a commercial solar panel installation

9 questions to ask potential commercial solar system providers

Investigating how to go solar? Expect solar companies to ask you these 7 questions

The key components of a commercial solar panel warranty

An introduction to net metering: your friend and business partner

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