If you are a business owner, one of your many concerns are operating costs, one of which is your energy bill. You pay for electricity consumed by everything from the lights and computers and electronics in your building to running industrial machinery. Electricity enables your business’s operation — but it doesn’t always come cheap.
You may be wondering if generating your own electricity with solar PV can offset that cost. The answer is yes, in the right circumstances.
Reduce Your Cost by Reducing Your Need
The first rule when it comes to solar energy is don’t pay more than you need to. The best way to do this is to reduce your need for electricity. If you have inefficient appliances, lighting, and so on, you’re better off investing money to reduce your electrical load before paying for a large solar PV system. Investments in energy savings can have a faster payback than solar PV.
Figuring out the best ways to reduce your energy use begins with an energy assessment. Energy experts take an in depth look at how your business uses and wastes energy, then recommend the best measures to reduce overall energy use. In many cases, the savings generated by the recommendations pay for the cost of the energy assessment!
Once you have reduced your electricity use, solar PV is the easiest form of renewable energy to integrate into your building. Because you have reduced your annual demand for electricity you will now require a smaller solar PV system to produce the electricity you need for your building, reducing the cost of installation.
Is my roof right for solar pV?
The characteristics of your building's roof can have a significant impact on the viability and financials of a solar PV system. Roof age, size and direction are the primary considerations.
New roofs are ideal for solar PV. It is typically not recommended to install solar PV on a roof over 15 years old since the modules will have to be removed for a roof replacement anyway. Ideally, a new roof will be installed “solar PV ready”, to reduce installation costs. Solar ready means that a solar friendly roof material is used, no large roof penetrations are present and electrical conduit is pre-installed. Let us know if you are replacing your roof and we can help make sure it is installed solar ready!
The direction your building faces can affect the performance of your solar PV system. Ideally in Canada, a building’s roof will have great sun exposure to the south. Solar PV can be equally productive on buildings that have east or west-facing roof tops, but the array must be larger. Flat roofs are also great for solar PV systems as aluminum solar racking angled to the south can be used as the mounting surface for solar modules.
Unshaded roofs are best for solar PV. Shading from other buildings, chimneys or trees can put a big damper on the electricity production of a rooftop solar PV system. The best-case scenario is for the roof to be unshaded during spring, summer and fall all day long. Although, solar PV is still very feasible if the roof is shaded up to 20% of the time.
How do I get the most for my clean electricity?
For solar PV systems in Alberta under 150 kW, it can be worth switching to an electricity retailer that pays you a higher rate for your solar electricity production from March through October. Drawing from the grid becomes be more expensive; but if you’re exporting a large portion of your energy, you will receive a premium for it during these peak summer months. A detailed forecast of consumption and production is recommended to ensure that this strategy makes financial sense. To help with this, installation of an energy monitoring sub-meter would help determine daily electricity consumption patterns for your building.
What financial benefit can I expect from solar PV?
A solar PV system provides financial benefit to you by producing electricity that can be used in two different ways. Some electricity is used within your building which reduces your electricity use and energy bill. The remaining electricity is sold to the grid and you receive a credit on your electricity bill, further reducing your energy bill.
When analyzing the financial payback of a solar PV system we factor in where electricity prices are forecasted be in the future. Generally, we expect electricity costs to rise in Alberta, which benefits the financials of solar PV.
When you install solar PV, you’re essentially buying your electricity in bulk for a fixed price over next 25-40 years. That’s 25 years at a secure price you can establish today. This reduces the variability in operation costs for your business moving forward and acts as a risk mitigation strategy against increasing electricity prices.
Explore the Incentives
The City of Edmonton, Municipal Climate Change Action Centre and Alberta Agriculture have provided various incentives for commercial businesses, non-profits, institutions and home owners. Check to see what program you are eligible for and take advantage of funding that will reduce upfront costs.
Get Started with an Energy Assessment
Every building and business has different needs. The best way to truly understand how solar PV can save you money and reduce your emissions is to get an energy assessment. This service will discover all the specific ways you can save on energy costs for your building: including the suitability of a solar installation.