Solar an easy energy solution for commercial buildings

Solar an easy energy solution for commercial buildings

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By Steve Wright
Whirlwind Steel

With recent technical advances, getting enough energy from the sun to power your business has become an affordable reality. The amount of solar power generated from rooftop photovoltaics could reach 39 percent in 2016.

Most major electricity providers use solar energy as part of their generation mix. In fact, nearly one-third of the population of the United States lives within 20 miles of a solar energy installation.

Solar energy is one of the easiest and least expensive renewable resources that can be used in commercial building, bringing with it a host of benefits.

Solar energy advantages

Lower costs

Once the solar collectors and converters are installed, solar is essentially a free resource. Your building can run off the roof-top panels at no cost to you. Besides that, solar energy is available as long as the sun exists, so you have consistent energy available to you for as long as you own your building.

Solar energy is helpful for remote facilities where power cables have not been installed. In areas where running lines and cables would be difficult or expensive, installing solar cells allow the building to operate regardless of the absence of an outside provider.

Easy deployment

Another advantage of solar energy is the ease of deployment for homes and businesses. Solar panels can be installed on rooftops with no need for additional space.

There are no wires, cords or power sources needed. As a bonus, the panels can be distributed across the space. You don’t need the panels gathered into a single array, giving you flexibility in installation.

Benefits for the user and the environment

Solar energy generation is a non-polluting process.

  • It does not release harmful gasses such as CO2, nitrogen dioxide, or other pollution.
  • The panels do not release harmful vapors or other toxic substances.
  • There is no fuel requirement. Fuel transportation and storage are not needed.
  • You do not have to store radioactive waste.

Solar panels are low maintenance. In fact, many come with warranties of 25 years or longer. The solar cells are highly durable with no moving parts to wear out or break. A solar energy system could potentially operate for 25 to 40 years. If you need more capacity, you simply add more solar panels.

With solar, there is almost no recurring cost after the initial investment for installation. Return on investment is typically 10 to 15 years. Another big advantage: solar is quiet; no noise is produced during operation. It is a passive system that requires no motor or other equipment.

Look who is investing in solar

More and more companies across a variety of industries are investing in solar energy, either for their own buildings or as part of a public array.

Walmart was the top investor in solar capacity in 2013. The company generated 89.43 Megawatts in total from store installations. It set up 215 installations that same year, the most of any company.

Other companies investing heavily in solar are:

  • IKEA: 89 percent of facilities are solar powered
  • Kohl’s
  • Walgreens
  • Apple

In addition to those generating solar energy for their own use, other companies making investments in utility and distributed generation solar include:

  • Google
  • Bank of America
  • Merrill Lynch

These types of investments provide a way for homeowners and other businesses to go solar at no upfront cost.

Many industries count solar energy as part of their overall budgets. Retail has been aggressive in implementing solar energy policies and installations, with other industries following suit. The auto industry, health and beauty and pharmaceuticals also are looking to solar energy. General Motors, for instance, has installed solar equipment in 38 percent of its facilities.

As for major industrial and commercial real estate developers, they see solar as the way to go as well.

Prologis has installed nearly 80,000 kilowatts of capacity across its 34 installations. Hartz Mountain Industries has installed nearly 20,000 kilowatts over 17 installations, while Kimco has six installations generating 3,000 kilowatts.  

As of mid-2013 total cumulative commercial deployment equaled 3,380 MW over 32,800 facilities across the US; an increase of more than 40 percent from the year before.

For most companies, the largest single operating expense is electricity. Between the volatility of prices and the need for more and more power, businesses are looking for ways to save on energy costs, increase revenues and position themselves competitively.

Investing in solar energy can do that and more. The biggest cost will be upfront, and most manufacturers and installers offer financing. 

Topics: Architectural Firms, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Energy Audit / Energy Management, Energy Saving Products, Energy Storage - Solar Energy Storage, Engineering Firms, Exteriors, Great Commercial Buildings, Office Buildings, Solar Energy & Solar Power, Sustainable Communities, Technology, Urban Planning and Design

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