Making the decision to go solar can be a confusing, intimidating process. It can be difficult to decide on the solar power system design, which solar panel to go with, how to finance the project, what warranty is best, the list goes on. Partnering with a trustworthy solar provider is crucial to a successful project. SunPower suggests the most important questions to ask solar companies before making the decision which to go with.
1. How much money will my organization save with a commercial solar array?
Solar is meant to be around for decades, so finding out long term savings is key here. Be sure to ask your provider about the different panels they offer. Most installers, including Freedom Solar, offer several panels with differing efficiencies. For example, high efficiency panels are slightly more expensive but will yield better savings over time than lower quality panels. Be sure to pay attention to things like efficiency, performance levels, and durability when evaluating different solar panels.
2. How much upfront capital will my organization need to go solar? What other financial options are available?
According to the article, the question is not “How much do solar panels cost?” There is no specific cost of solar. The price of the panels, and how much energy they produce, varies widely. The more useful question is “How much upfront capital will my organization need to go solar?” This depends on how you decide to finance your solar array. If you choose to purchase the system outright, the answer will depend on how much you plan to finance and lender requirements. Your business can also enter a PPA (power purchase agreement)- you buy the energy but not the solar equipment. This means you get the benefit of constant electricity rates, with no upfront costs. Ask about the different options.
3. Is my building or site appropriate for solar? Am I limited to only rooftop installations?
While a solar expert can probably decide if your site is suitable for solar over the phone, the final determination will need to be made after an on- site visit. From the article- “They’ll need be looking at roof and parking lot space… the angle of the sun and shading, building integrity, soil quality, permitting concerns, grid interconnection requirements, and more.” While rooftop solar is the most common, you can also install a carport or a ground array. The solar expert will help you choose the best option.
4. What types of products do you carry and how do they differ?
If you work with a dealer or installer, they will make recommendations on which solar panel will best suit your needs. According to the article, it is a smart idea to talk to a third party solar consultant. They will help you compare different products and warranties in an unbiased way. Think about your priorities, whether that’s long term savings, meeting sustainability goals, or improving your property value, and then look for a dealer that provides that technology.
5. Who will be responsible for ongoing operation and maintenance (O&M) of my commercial solar system?
Solar systems are generally low maintenance. However, the occasional cleaning and possible repairs are sometimes needed. Knowing who is responsible for this is key to maintaining maximum efficiency. Your solar provider will be able to tell you if this is part of your warranty.
6. What policies and incentives are available for my organization if we decide to go solar?
Currently, the federal solar tax credit, known as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing your solar system from your federal taxes. In addition to the federal ITC, some states and local policies offer incentives. Texas does offer incentives and rebates, but they do vary depending on your utility company and where your organization is. Freedom Solar has the latest information on these solar incentives.
7. Which panels would you (or did you) choose for your own business and why? Can I talk to a current customer?
This may be the most revealing question of all, according to the article. It will show what the dealer really thinks about panels that are on the market. Freedom Solar also recommends talking to a current customer, as they are likely to give an honest answer.
Going solar can be a complicated process for businesses, nonprofits, and other institutions, but knowing you have the right partner can make all the difference.