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Solar for Commercial Buildings

The Energy Show · Solar for Commercial Buildings Every time I fly into a city the glare from bright white commercial rooftops screams out to me “I need solar panels.” It is a little known fact that the 30% solar investment tax credit coupled with 20%+ depreciation benefits makes commercial rooftop solar the most cost-effective way of supporting local electric grids. Just think about how much more power would have been available to California if only 10% of commercial rooftops had rooftop solar + batteries. However, the commercial solar and storage market lags behind the utility and residential solar markets in the U.S. for three main reasons:

  1. First, many commercial buildings in the U.S. are leased. Renters generally do not want to make the capital investments necessary to install solar and storage on buildings that they do not own. Power Purchase Agreements coupled with fast paybacks can overcome this financial limitation.

  2. Second, utilities complicate the interconnection of commercial systems by requiring arbitrary system size caps and special equipment. Pre-applying for system interconnections and understanding the timeframes for transformer upgrades help resolve these issues. On a side note, utilities in California have managed to pass Assembly Bill 2143 that requires expensive prevailing wage labor rates for all commercial buildings that will go into effect on 1/1/23. A veto by Governor Newsom is the only way to prevent a big increase in commercial solar and storage installation costs. If you would like to ask Governor Newsom to veto AB 2143, please click on this link: Veto Commercial Solar Prevailing Wages.

  3. Third, many commercial buildings are “value engineered” with limited rooftop load bearing capabilities. Lightweight solar installation technology solves this rooftop loading problem. Fortunately, there is a solution to the weight of solar panels on these value-engineered buildings. A company called SunMan has developed high efficiency lightweight solar panels that are ideal for commercial and industrial rooftops — including buildings with curved roof surfaces. Our guest on this week’s Energy Show is the brains behind SunMan: Dr. Zhengrong Shi. Dr. Shi was the founder and CEO of Suntech, the first NYSE-listed solar module company. He is a legend in the solar industry, and is also a professor at the University of New South Wales. During the mid-2000s, Suntech was the largest manufacturer of solar modules in the world, and gained a reputation for quality and reliability. Please join me on this week’s Energy Show as Dr. Shi discusses the keys to success in the solar industry, as well as the benefits of Sunman eArc solar modules.


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