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What You Need to Know About Installing Commercial Solar

By June 12, 2021June 22nd, 2021Blog

Businesses and organizations interested in commercial and industrial solar in California have many options for finding a solar energy provider, taking advantage of incentives, and choosing the right kind of commercial solar financing for their project. Companies that are new to the solar industry tend to have plenty of questions about the process, especially what it takes to install and run a solar system on their property. Our outline is a great place to start when learning what to expect, and how partners like Coldwell Solar can help through every step.

Solar Energy Consultation

Large solar projects in California should always start with a thorough consultation with a provider. This is the starting place for understanding what to expect from a solar installation, what kind of installation would be the right fit for your property, and how much renewable energy could save your business. Coldwell Solar can also help advise you on specific incentives that can lower initial costs, as well as a variety of financing packages that can work for many different situations. This is the time to explore the details, ask all the questions, and get your estimate and timeline for the project. When a business is satisfied with their project, a contract can be drawn up and the design process can begin.

One key decision an organization must make during this step is how high of an initial cost the business is willing to accept for the installation. For companies that want to avoid initial costs as much as possible, we offer financing options like lease-to-own or traditional solar packages like a PPA (power purchase agreement) that can greatly reduce or remove the initial installation costs while still allowing your organization to benefit from – or eventually own – the solar system. On the other hand, for businesses that have been planning on a solar installation and have budgeted for it, we can also arrange cash purchases.

Solar Energy System Design

Solar installations can come in many different sizes and designs, so the next formal step is creating blueprints for the installation that best fits your organization. Agricultural solar panel systems, for example, are designed to sit above crops and cattle, while industrial solar systems may be mounted on rooftops or on the ground of adjacent, empty lots. Solar carports, meanwhile, use sturdy systems to mount panels above parking spaces and provide shade.

Additional components like EV charging stations or battery arrays for solar storage can also be planned at this point. Throughout the design process, Coldwell Solar can show companies exactly how the solar panels will be mounted, angle to face the sun, and other important details. When the design is completed to your satisfaction, the construction process can be scheduled.

Solar Energy System Construction

A commercial solar company like Coldwell Solar can arrange for construction on a timetable that’s right for you. During the planning stages, we can go over how long construction will take, what kind of access to the property will be needed, and other specifics. Time from breaking ground to completion can vary based on many factors: Commercial installations tend to take anywhere from several weeks to several months. It isn’t common for solar construction to be too disruptive, but some preparation is need – i.e., closing lots during construction, arranging for alternate parking, scheduling power shutdowns while the system is being connected and tested, etc.

Keep in mind that according to the latest IRS guidelines on commercial solar incentives, the year in which you break ground on construction can also have an important impact on what tax incentive percentages you can qualify for. Starting construction in 2021, for example, can save significantly more money than beginning in 2022.

Solar Energy System Commissioning

Many commercial solar energy solutions in California are built to be connected to the larger electric grid in the region so they can provide additional power in the area. However, the utility company involved must authorize and onboard the solar installation for this to happen, a process called commissioning. This step is complete when the solar system is fully ready for operation. After it’s completed, the system begins renewable energy production, and your company begins to realize the return on investment.

Solar Energy System Maintenance

One advantage to solar installations is that they need relatively little maintenance to keep operating. However, it is important to keep an eye on the system, schedule periodic cleanings and inspections (often called “operation and maintenance (O&M”). A solar energy company in California like Coldwell Solar can schedule maintenance throughout the life of the solar system so that doesn’t need to be a concern for the owner. Inspections can also help quickly fix any component that may be experiencing trouble – it’s important to arrange for visits relatively early so that companies can take advantage of any built-in warranties if a part or panel needs to be replaced. Maintenance can also include basic steps like cleaning, making sure no nearby flora or fauna is causing any trouble, checking connections, and so on.

Sometimes owners prefer to handle certain maintenance steps themselves, and sometimes they are contracted out to a third party. The details are typically decided when the contact is put together, which is why it is important to consider maintenance even before construction begins.

Solar Energy System Monitoring

A solar installation doesn’t just need physical maintenance. Another key part of operations is performance monitoring or using software to keep track of how much electricity the solar installation is generating and how it is being used. The provider can then offer periodic performance reports to the owner of the installation. This is important for proving return on investment, seeing how production varies and what levels to expect, and watching for any unexpected production issues over time. Performance monitoring can also help a business understand how many solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) it is generating, and Coldwell Solar can help businesses create a plan for using SRECs to meet company goals or even generate additional revenue.