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What to Know About the Commercial Solar Installation Process

Shannon Higgins

January 2019

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Making the decision to add solar to your business is a wise financial choice. After all, when you lower your electricity bills and reduce your carbon footprint by making your own clean electricity, the financial rewards and positive environmental impact is felt for decades. You’ll also be joining the ranks of successful companies, like Apple, Target, and PepsiCo, who’ve made the switch to solar, along with helping make your business more attractive for current and future employees.  

To help ease the transition, there are limited-time tax benefits that can make going solar more affordable for your organization. The federal investment tax credit is one of the most lucrative benefits, but the current 30% rate will decline after 2019, so it's important to start your solar project soon to ensure you'll receive the highest credit possible.

Once you’ve decided to add a commercial solar energy system to your business, it’s natural to want the process to be done as quickly as possible so that you can start reaping the numerous benefits right away. The process of going solar, however, can vary in time depending on the type and size of system you’re installing, as well as the legal requirements of the jurisdiction in which you operate. But no matter what solar path you choose to go down, there are five basic steps that most commercial solar projects follow. Let's take a brief look at each.

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1. Site Evaluation

All commercial solar projects have this as their first step. The building blocks of the solar design and installation plans are based off this initial site evaluation. This step includes:

  • Legal reviews to ensure you have the right to build a solar energy system on the property.
  • Determining where and how your solar energy system will connect to the grid.
  • Evaluation of the property including shade analysis, structural evaluations, and topographical and geological surveys.

2. System Design

In this phase, the plans for design and installation are formalized. You’ll receive a design drawing showing how the panels will be arranged to capture maximum sunlight and how the construction will be executed. The design will show you roof mounted, ground mounted, or carports per your request.

3. Construction

The process of construction can vary depending on your project type and size of system. Smaller rooftop systems can be as quick as 2-3 weeks, whereas larger and more complex systems can take up to several months. While well thought-out plans have minimal disruption to normal operations, you’ll still want to prepare for things like alternate parking spots and temporary power shutdowns, depending on the nature of your business and size of the system. Most experienced solar installers have clever work-arounds that will help to minimize disruptions to your normal operations. Picking a reputable and experienced installer is critical in this regard. 

4. Commissioning

Commissioning is the next and final step once construction is complete. This is when your solar provider confirms that your solar installation was built according to plan, and the utility grants you permission to connect and operate your solar energy system with the local power grid. Congratulations, you’re now producing your own clean energy!

5. System Operation and Maintenance (O&M)

As with anything, proper care and maintenance will give your solar energy system a longer lifespan, as well as ensure maximum efficiency and power generation throughout its lifespan. Your contract should specify your organization’s level of involvement in O&M. Be sure to select a solar design and installation team with proven O&M resources and a reputation for excellence in long-term support. The best O&M packages generally include basic annual inspections and warranty repair, to performance monitoring and even routine cleaning, in some instances. 

As you can see, there's quite a lot that goes into the commercial solar installation process. If you're hoping to reap some of the lucrative tax benefits, time is of the essence! As we mentioned above, 2019 is the last year to claim the 30% federal investment tax credit. With an unprecedented demand for solar, installer's schedules are already filling up for this year, so we recommend getting your project started as soon as possible to claim this benefit on your business taxes.

If you’re interested in learning how solar can help your business and about the substantial tax benefits you can claim, we invite you to start your solar project today by scheduling a consultation with a member of our commercial solar team.

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