The sun is an invaluable resource associated with warmth, physical health, and emotional well-being. Today’s energy producers consider it to be a rising star for clean, renewable power production. While many homeowners have already installed solar energy, business owners aren’t far behind.
A large project like solar will impact an organization for years to come, so it’s important to make informed decisions. Commercial property owners, facility managers, and business operators who want more information about how solar works can use this article as a guide.
What is a commercial solar energy system?
A solar energy system captures the sun’s light and converts it into electricity for use in homes and businesses. Today’s commercial solar energy systems consist of three main components:
- Solar panels.
- Power inverters and associated electrical equipment.
- Racking to mount the solar panels on.
The sun shines for a limited time each day, typically 10 hours in most geographic locations. Some systems have storage batteries that help businesses manage their power demands. This comes in handy when the sun is not shining and also reduces high demand charges from your utility.
Most systems integrate into the local power grid, so any excess energy you produce feeds back to your utility. This also acts as a backup if your solar system isn’t producing enough power for your needs. During peak daytime hours, some solar customers actually produce excess electricity. In most cases, your utility issues credits which you can use to buy electricity during evenings or off-peak hours when the sun isn’t shining.
Where should you install solar panels?
Commercial energy systems come in a variety of formats, including rooftop installations, solar carports, and ground-mounted systems. Rooftop systems make better use of your real estate, turning your unused roof space into your own power plant.
Solar carports have the dual benefit of creating power and protecting for your vehicles from the elements, such as the hot summer sun. Solar carports are highly visible, so you will want to make sure the aesthetics are pleasing to your eye.
Ground mount systems are also high-visibility and can make productive use out of otherwise unusable land. Ground mount systems also tend to be the least expensive form of solar installation.
What Are Solar Panels Made Of?
Solar panels are the main components of commercial solar electric systems. These panels are made of silicon solar cells, metal frames, glass casings, plexiglass, and wiring.
Silicon cells come in three main varieties: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous (thin-film cells). Silicon has conductive properties that allow light to convert into electricity.
Manufacturers usually frame solar panels in metal to protect them from weather-related damage. The most common material is aluminum because it is strong and lightweight.
Glass sheets cover the silicon to insulate and protect it from environmental abuse. The glass that covers the silicon cells allows sunlight to freely reach the silicon but prevents the silicon and wiring from overheating.
How Are Solar Panels Made?
Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are the most common solar panels on the market.
First, the most efficient type of solar panel are monocrystalline solar panels. Manufacturers produce monocrystalline solar panels by cutting a large block of silicon into smaller pieces and placing them within a single solar panel. The large block of silicon is made from one crystal of heated silicon. Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient type of solar panel but are also the most expensive to make.
Next in efficiency are polycrystalline solar panels. Panel manufacturers build polycrystalline-based cells by fusing together multiple silicon crystals into a single panel. These panels are cheaper to make but are less efficient than monocrystalline silicon cells. Due to the seams where the multiple crystals meet, monocrystalline cells because they lose some performance.
Finally, you have amorphous solar panels. Amorphous solar cells are also known as thin-film cells. While most of these cells are made of silicon, they have different atomic bonds than their crystalline counterparts. “Amorphous” refers to the science behind these cells. The random atomic network of amorphous silicon bonds makes the material more flexible. Thin-film solar cells are less efficient than crystalline cells, but scientists and manufacturers are working to close the gap. Some of the most exciting advancements in solar panel technology are happening with thin-film cells.
How Do Photovoltaic Cells Work?
Solar energy is one of the cheapest forms of energy to produce thanks to photovoltaic cells (PV cells).
When light touches silicon-based PV cells, electrons begin to move and produce direct current (DC) electricity. The solar energy system’s power inverter converts DC power into alternating current (AC). Most homes and businesses use AC power.
Solar energy contractors install a series of wires and switches to funnel the electricity that the system produces into the power grid or its battery for storage.
Cost-Saving Benefits of Solar Power Systems
Installing a commercial solar power system can yield significant cost savings. This will depend on your location, your power usage, your current electric costs, and local financial incentives.
A properly designed solar energy system can meet most of the power requirements for many types of electric customers. In some cases, it can offset the vast majority of your monthly electric bill.
Environmental Advantages of Solar Energy Systems
Even the most stalwart capitalists don’t want to sacrifice healthy air for profits. Fossil fuels such as coal and oil produce environmental toxins when burned for electricity. By installing corporate solar energy systems, businesses reduce or eliminate their consumption of fossil fuel energy, thereby burnishing their credentials as good corporate citizens. That credibility is important to younger generations which is a quickly expanding market.
Brand-Boosting Power of Solar Energy Systems
Marketplace competition is fierce for today’s businesses and nonprofit agencies. On of the keys to long-term growth are customer relationships based on shared values. As a result, many consumers feel strongly about corporate social responsibility and environmental conservation.
Eco-friendly companies have the unique opportunity to associate their brand with a cause their consumers support. Companies that make proactive changes that make the world a healthier place are often rewarded with ongoing business.
Renewable energy continues to be a hot topic for businesses that heavily rely on electricity to power main operations. Without a doubt, solar energy is a leader in the emerging renewable energy sector. As solar technologies advance and costs decrease, the benefits of harnessing the sun’s energy for commercial use presents a compelling business case.
Give us a call today to get more information about how a solar energy system can benefit you.