Solar Power Panels

How Do I Know If I Should Consider Installing Solar Panels for My Business?

By Elliana Spiegel

There are numerous questions commercial businesses must consider to decide if installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on their building is the right move. Do solar power panels apply for every type of commercial business? How does solar PV affect a business's utility bill? Can you afford a solar photovoltaic (PV) system? What type of return on investment can you expect with a solar PV system?

Luckily, different options in renewable energy programs make the transition more feasible. With available financing options, renewable incentive programs and solar calculator tools to help you estimate sizing needs and resources, businesses can use a solar photovoltaic (PV) system to reduce their carbon footprint, conserve energy and save long term on their energy costs.

Understanding solar power systems
Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems mounted on roofs, over parking areas or walkways, convert particles of sunlight (photons) into electrons of direct current (DC) electricity. These electrons flow into an inverter that converts the DC power into alternating current (AC), the same power that is available at a wall socket as 120-volt, 60-cycle AC power.

Qualified contractors work with your local utility to connect your solar PV system to the utility's grid. A specially programmed net meter measures the difference between the amount of electricity generated at your business and the amount of electricity supplied by the utility to your business over the course of the month. Your bill is calculated using the difference, called net energy. Any solar energy that you do not use goes back into the electrical grid through the meter. When your solar power panel system is not producing more than a building needs, the facility consumes electricity from the grid as usual.

How to get started
Finding a qualified contractor is an important part of the process. PG&E typically recommends talking to multiple contractors about the vision for your solar project, and obtaining three different contract bids to compare. Numerous tools are available to enable businesses to assess whether they should lease into a power purchase agreement (PPA) or finance components necessary for their solar power system installations. Additionally, consider the following steps:

Do the math. Start by understanding the financial considerations and benefits of investing in renewable energy, exploring leasing versus purchasing options and learning how the size of the system required for your business's facility will impact costs. You can get a quick estimate of the cost and size of the system you will need to power your business using the Solar Calculator.

Determine if you can save with incentives. PG&E may offer incentives to reward your investment in renewable energy.

What to expect from your bill
Net Energy Metering (NEM) customers are automatically placed on a 12-month billing cycle. Businesses using a photovoltaic (PV) system can expect to receive a monthly bill and an annual true-up statement. PG&E not only provides access to net usage activity but also allows businesses to view their NEM statement on My Energy.

Renewable system adoption
As prices for renewable energy continue to fall,1 commercial businesses have much to gain from solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, an economical energy choice that can help them cut costs over time. In fact, solar PV demand is at an all-time high, with the U.S. measuring as the fourth largest solar market in the world, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In the U.S., more than 1.5 gigawatts of solar generation have been installed since 2007.2 The benefits of solar PV energy include reducing operating costs and qualifying for tax credits to broader environmental benefits such as reducing fossil fuel usage in California.

Opportunities to take advantage of energy efficiency
There are many rebates, initiatives and programs available for businesses in California interested in investing in solar power systems and in energy-efficiency opportunities. PG&E is one of the many energy management resources available to help small and medium businesses with tools, resources and training programs to support their move to solar energy. Reducing electricity use prior to installing a solar PV system can ensure accurate sizing of system requirements and potentially lowering your system costs.

Businesses can download "How to Get the Best Results from a Lighting or HVAC Project" eBook to get the most out of their technician partnership for effective energy utilization.

Referenced in article:
  1. U.S. Department of Energy
  2. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Find out which renewable energy system can earn your business fixed energy rates, reduced operating costs and available tax credits:
Do solar panels apply to every type of commercial business? Find out if solar power installation is right for you:
  • SMB Blog Author
    Elliana Spiegel
    Senior Program Manager at PG&E, she is dedicated to enhancing the customer experience for PG&E solar and renewables customers. She is focused on helping businesses and residential customers understand the steps to go solar, and the user-friendly tools and resources that PG&E provides to help in the process such as the PG&E solar webpages, and the solar calculator. Elliana also manages the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing Program to incentivize solar on low income housing.

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