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EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
A person surveys the aftermath of Hurricane Sally on September 16, 2020 in Pensacola, Florida. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A record-smashing 22 weather disasters inflicted at least $1billion of damage on the U.S. in 2020, according to NOAA, as the toll of human-caused climate change mounts in real time.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A participates in a Fridays for Future climate strike on Oct. 9, 2020 in Turin, Italy. Stefano Guidi / Getty Images

By Jon Queally

Fridays for Future, the youth-led global group inspired by Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg, announced Wednesday that its next international day of climate strikes will occur on March 19 of this year with a demand for "immediate, concrete, and ambitious action" directed at world leaders who have in recent years talked seriously about the urgent need to address the planetary emergency but stalled dangerously by failing to make those words a reality.

Read More Show Less
Vithun Khamsong / Moment / Getty Images

While rooftop solar systems have become increasingly popular among U.S. homeowners, commercial solar panel installations can be even more effective at generating low-cost renewable energy. Solar energy has a great deal to offer businesses due to the scale at which they can invest, the simplicity of most installations and the high energy costs associated with running a growing organization.

Most business' buildings have wide, flat roofs that can fit a large number of solar panels. Commercial solar panel installations are eligible for two of the largest solar incentives: the federal solar tax credit and net metering programs. Plus, the more solar panels you install, the lower your cost per watt will be. Altogether, this means commercial solar owners get a great bang for their buck.

What Does a Commercial Solar Panel Installation Look Like?

Commercial solar energy systems vary much more in size and scope than their residential counterparts. Most commercial solar arrays are significantly larger, and they aren't always confined to roofs. Some organizations opt for solar carports, while others install ground-mounted solar panels. Larger commercial operations may even feature a "power tower," an array of mirrors that focus the sun's rays onto the photovoltaic panels below them.

Commercial systems are usually installed on a flat surface and must be built on racks tilted toward the sun at the best angle for the solar panels to capture the most energy during the day. Some systems even include features that synchronize the panels' angles (or azimuth) with the changing height of the sun.

Keeping the cost per panel as low as possible is key to securing the quickest return on investment (ROI) for larger commercial installations. For this reason, we recommend selecting the most efficient solar panels available. The less space, products and planning needed, the lower the aggregate costs of the installation will be. More efficient solar panels also tend to last longer, ensuring a reliable investment.

Solar offers commercial property owners a growing number of solutions to offset a large chunk, or even all, of a business's electricity bills. A commercial solar system is a sizable investment, but solar incentives, tax breaks and new technologies make it a very attractive one. The ideal way to get a good understanding of the best solar installation for your business is to consult with a local installer near you and get a quote, which you can do for free below.

Commercial Solar Costs

Given the size of commercial solar projects, customers can usually expect a larger figure than the cost of most residential systems. No two businesses are the same, and though some small organizations may find great value in a commercial system costing around $50,000, large industrial facilities or solar farms can cost over $1 million to install. The good news is that as the scale of the system increases, so does the speed at which you can recoup your investment.

Several tax credits, rebates and incentives still exist for commercial solar panel systems as they do for residential systems.

Incentive Benefit for Commercial Solar Panel Installations

Federal solar tax credit

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) allows a deduction of 26% of the cost of the system for any commercial solar installation.

Bonus depreciation through MACRS

The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) allows a tax deduction for the depreciation of qualifying solar equipment. This solar tax incentive for commercial installations allows companies to recover their investments over an accelerated amount of time. For solar, this is five years. Bonus depreciation was introduced into MACRS after 2008 and allows you to allocate 100% of the depreciable value in just one year.

In other words, MACRS allows businesses to effectively accelerate their ROI through tax deductions.

Net metering

Commercial properties generating energy via solar panels are eligible for net energy metering (NEM). In the same way that a residential customer would feed excess solar energy back to the grid, commercial installations can exchange their surplus energy for credits from their utility company. These credits can be used to pull energy from the grid overnight or during rainy weather at no cost.

Statewide and local incentives

We encourage our readers to research statewide incentives or local incentives that may be available in their area. Depending on the area, a commercial solar installation could be eligible for solar rebates, renewable energy credits or zero-interest solar loans.

Benefits of Commercial Solar Installations

Commercial solar installations provide all the same benefits that residential solar installations do, only at a much larger scale. As most commercial solar installations can be well over 50 kW (the average residential is between 5 to 10 kW), some commercial solar installations can have over 10 times the environmental and economic impact of your average residential installation.

Environmental Benefits of Commercial Solar Panels

Commercial solar installations have the potential to offset hundreds, if not thousands, of the metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by conventional energy generation. For example, a 50-kW commercial system will produce an estimated 65,000 kWh of clean energy per year. This would lower a business's carbon footprint by 1,000 metric tons over the course of a commercial solar power system's lifetime (the equivalent of not burning just over 1 million pounds of coal).

As a growing number of consumers are choosing to support businesses with responsible environmental practices, solar presents businesses with a golden opportunity to reflect their commitment to sustainability while still turning a profit.

Financial Benefits of Commercial Solar Panels

Energy costs are routinely one of the highest costs to businesses. Energy Star reports that the nation's small businesses spend over $60 billion on energy per year, and utility rates are only projected to increase over time.

Utility rates also fluctuate with frequent supply disruptions, so investing in solar allows businesses to offset their energy costs in a predictable, fixed manner. The average lifetime of a solar panel is around 25 years, so with the right warranty, a business can reliably budget its energy costs decades in advance. By offsetting the majority (or sometimes all) of their energy costs, businesses can reinvest huge sums of money back into their organizations, raising their bottom line.

FAQ: Commercial Solar Panel Installations

Are commercial solar panel installations worth it?

Installing solar panels is one of the best financial investments a business can make. Assuming they have the proper space and climate for solar panels, businesses can offset huge chunks of their energy costs while fostering an ethical image. With a good number of soon-to-expire commercial incentives on the market today, there has never been a better time for businesses to invest in solar.

How long does it take to install commercial solar panels?

Commercial solar installations are typically much larger than residential installations, so they can have a more intensive install process. Depending on the size of the system, commercial solar panel installations can take anywhere from weeks to months to complete. The best way to learn how long an installation would take for your business is to connect with a local solar installer near you.

How many solar panels do I need for a commercial installation?

The number of solar panels necessary for an installation will depend mainly on the goals of the installation and how much space is available for panels. Though some commercial solar operations like solar farms exist to generate and sell energy for profit, most businesses only aim to offset their own energy costs. That means they won't need to buy as many panels as they can fit, but only the amount necessary to meet their energy needs. The best method to determine exactly how many panels you'd need to meet your energy needs is to contact a local solar installer for a free proposal.

Can solar panels be used for commercial and industrial purposes?

Absolutely. Commercial and industrial solar installations can sometimes offer even more value than residential solar panels. Due to the scale of most commercial installations, price-per-watt is cheaper, giving customers much more bang for their buck. Commercial installations still maintain eligibility for the solar tax credit, net metering and certain tax deductions, making it a savvy investment for business owners.

Nepal's COVID-19 lockdown decreased air pollution levels in the Kathmandu Valley, seen here on March 29, 2020, and known as one of the world's most polluted cities. Narayan Maharjan / NurPhoto / Getty Images

When countries began going into lockdown last winter and spring, clearer skies from reduced traffic and industry were hailed as a rare bright spot during a difficult time.

Read More Show Less
Trending
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a video speech at the high-level meeting of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 22, 2021. Xinhua / Zhang Cheng via Getty Images

By Anke Rasper

"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less
Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By John R. Platt

The period of the 45th presidency will go down as dark days for the United States — not just for the violent insurgency and impeachment that capped off Donald Trump's four years in office, but for every regressive action that came before.

Read More Show Less
A man stands in front of what is left of his home following Hurricane Iota in Honduras on November 20, 2020. Wendell Escoto / AFP / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

One year after over 11,000 scientists from 153 countries came together to declare a climate emergency and urge ambitious action, the Oregon State University researchers who launched that effort said on Wednesday that an urgent massive-scale mobilization is necessary to address the human-caused global crisis.

Read More Show Less
Met Office Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership Programme / YouTube

2021 is forecasted to be slightly colder worldwide than years previous, according to meteorologists at the United Kingdom Meteorological Office, but will still be one the hottest on record due to greenhouse gas effects.

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Trending
Pexels

By Iman Ghosh

  • From 1880, the Earth's average surface temperature has risen by 0.07°C every decade.
  • Evidence shows that key historical developments such as industrial revolutions contributed significantly to global warming.
  • These events are linked to the mass burning of fossil fuels to meet an increase in human demand.
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A man walks his bicycle past a cliff edge in Happisburgh, England on Jan. 27, 2021. Global climate change causes sea level rise and erosion of land. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

Climate campaigners on Thursday pointed to a study showing that Earth is hotter than it's ever been during the entire epoch of human civilization as the latest proof of the need to treat human-caused global heating like the dire emergency that it is.

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Trending
Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service has released a report on the world's record heat in November 2020. Anton Petrus / Getty Images

By Timothy Jones

The world experienced the hottest November on record in 2020, while Europe has had its warmest fall weather in history, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in a monthly report on Monday.

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Shasta Lake, California's largest water reservoir, at 30% capacity and under smoky conditions due to the Dixie and other fires burning in the area on Aug. 4, 2021, near Redding, California. George Rose / Getty Images

NOAA found that the average temperature of meteorological summer - June, July, and August - was 2.6°F (1.45°C) above the 20th century average, a troubling sign as global temperatures continue to increase faster than previously thought.

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Commuters make their way through a flooded street after heavy monsoon rains in Dhaka, Bangladesh on July 21, 2020. Munir Uz Zaman / Getty Images

By Ajit Niranjan

World leaders and businesses are not putting enough money into adapting to dangerous changes in the climate and must "urgently step up action," according to a report published Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

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EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
A person surveys the aftermath of Hurricane Sally on September 16, 2020 in Pensacola, Florida. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A record-smashing 22 weather disasters inflicted at least $1billion of damage on the U.S. in 2020, according to NOAA, as the toll of human-caused climate change mounts in real time.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A participates in a Fridays for Future climate strike on Oct. 9, 2020 in Turin, Italy. Stefano Guidi / Getty Images

By Jon Queally

Fridays for Future, the youth-led global group inspired by Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg, announced Wednesday that its next international day of climate strikes will occur on March 19 of this year with a demand for "immediate, concrete, and ambitious action" directed at world leaders who have in recent years talked seriously about the urgent need to address the planetary emergency but stalled dangerously by failing to make those words a reality.

Read More Show Less
Vithun Khamsong / Moment / Getty Images

While rooftop solar systems have become increasingly popular among U.S. homeowners, commercial solar panel installations can be even more effective at generating low-cost renewable energy. Solar energy has a great deal to offer businesses due to the scale at which they can invest, the simplicity of most installations and the high energy costs associated with running a growing organization.

Most business' buildings have wide, flat roofs that can fit a large number of solar panels. Commercial solar panel installations are eligible for two of the largest solar incentives: the federal solar tax credit and net metering programs. Plus, the more solar panels you install, the lower your cost per watt will be. Altogether, this means commercial solar owners get a great bang for their buck.

What Does a Commercial Solar Panel Installation Look Like?

Commercial solar energy systems vary much more in size and scope than their residential counterparts. Most commercial solar arrays are significantly larger, and they aren't always confined to roofs. Some organizations opt for solar carports, while others install ground-mounted solar panels. Larger commercial operations may even feature a "power tower," an array of mirrors that focus the sun's rays onto the photovoltaic panels below them.

Commercial systems are usually installed on a flat surface and must be built on racks tilted toward the sun at the best angle for the solar panels to capture the most energy during the day. Some systems even include features that synchronize the panels' angles (or azimuth) with the changing height of the sun.

Keeping the cost per panel as low as possible is key to securing the quickest return on investment (ROI) for larger commercial installations. For this reason, we recommend selecting the most efficient solar panels available. The less space, products and planning needed, the lower the aggregate costs of the installation will be. More efficient solar panels also tend to last longer, ensuring a reliable investment.

Solar offers commercial property owners a growing number of solutions to offset a large chunk, or even all, of a business's electricity bills. A commercial solar system is a sizable investment, but solar incentives, tax breaks and new technologies make it a very attractive one. The ideal way to get a good understanding of the best solar installation for your business is to consult with a local installer near you and get a quote, which you can do for free below.

Commercial Solar Costs

Given the size of commercial solar projects, customers can usually expect a larger figure than the cost of most residential systems. No two businesses are the same, and though some small organizations may find great value in a commercial system costing around $50,000, large industrial facilities or solar farms can cost over $1 million to install. The good news is that as the scale of the system increases, so does the speed at which you can recoup your investment.

Several tax credits, rebates and incentives still exist for commercial solar panel systems as they do for residential systems.

Incentive Benefit for Commercial Solar Panel Installations

Federal solar tax credit

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) allows a deduction of 26% of the cost of the system for any commercial solar installation.

Bonus depreciation through MACRS

The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) allows a tax deduction for the depreciation of qualifying solar equipment. This solar tax incentive for commercial installations allows companies to recover their investments over an accelerated amount of time. For solar, this is five years. Bonus depreciation was introduced into MACRS after 2008 and allows you to allocate 100% of the depreciable value in just one year.

In other words, MACRS allows businesses to effectively accelerate their ROI through tax deductions.

Net metering

Commercial properties generating energy via solar panels are eligible for net energy metering (NEM). In the same way that a residential customer would feed excess solar energy back to the grid, commercial installations can exchange their surplus energy for credits from their utility company. These credits can be used to pull energy from the grid overnight or during rainy weather at no cost.

Statewide and local incentives

We encourage our readers to research statewide incentives or local incentives that may be available in their area. Depending on the area, a commercial solar installation could be eligible for solar rebates, renewable energy credits or zero-interest solar loans.

Benefits of Commercial Solar Installations

Commercial solar installations provide all the same benefits that residential solar installations do, only at a much larger scale. As most commercial solar installations can be well over 50 kW (the average residential is between 5 to 10 kW), some commercial solar installations can have over 10 times the environmental and economic impact of your average residential installation.

Environmental Benefits of Commercial Solar Panels

Commercial solar installations have the potential to offset hundreds, if not thousands, of the metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by conventional energy generation. For example, a 50-kW commercial system will produce an estimated 65,000 kWh of clean energy per year. This would lower a business's carbon footprint by 1,000 metric tons over the course of a commercial solar power system's lifetime (the equivalent of not burning just over 1 million pounds of coal).

As a growing number of consumers are choosing to support businesses with responsible environmental practices, solar presents businesses with a golden opportunity to reflect their commitment to sustainability while still turning a profit.

Financial Benefits of Commercial Solar Panels

Energy costs are routinely one of the highest costs to businesses. Energy Star reports that the nation's small businesses spend over $60 billion on energy per year, and utility rates are only projected to increase over time.

Utility rates also fluctuate with frequent supply disruptions, so investing in solar allows businesses to offset their energy costs in a predictable, fixed manner. The average lifetime of a solar panel is around 25 years, so with the right warranty, a business can reliably budget its energy costs decades in advance. By offsetting the majority (or sometimes all) of their energy costs, businesses can reinvest huge sums of money back into their organizations, raising their bottom line.

FAQ: Commercial Solar Panel Installations

Are commercial solar panel installations worth it?

Installing solar panels is one of the best financial investments a business can make. Assuming they have the proper space and climate for solar panels, businesses can offset huge chunks of their energy costs while fostering an ethical image. With a good number of soon-to-expire commercial incentives on the market today, there has never been a better time for businesses to invest in solar.

How long does it take to install commercial solar panels?

Commercial solar installations are typically much larger than residential installations, so they can have a more intensive install process. Depending on the size of the system, commercial solar panel installations can take anywhere from weeks to months to complete. The best way to learn how long an installation would take for your business is to connect with a local solar installer near you.

How many solar panels do I need for a commercial installation?

The number of solar panels necessary for an installation will depend mainly on the goals of the installation and how much space is available for panels. Though some commercial solar operations like solar farms exist to generate and sell energy for profit, most businesses only aim to offset their own energy costs. That means they won't need to buy as many panels as they can fit, but only the amount necessary to meet their energy needs. The best method to determine exactly how many panels you'd need to meet your energy needs is to contact a local solar installer for a free proposal.

Can solar panels be used for commercial and industrial purposes?

Absolutely. Commercial and industrial solar installations can sometimes offer even more value than residential solar panels. Due to the scale of most commercial installations, price-per-watt is cheaper, giving customers much more bang for their buck. Commercial installations still maintain eligibility for the solar tax credit, net metering and certain tax deductions, making it a savvy investment for business owners.

Nepal's COVID-19 lockdown decreased air pollution levels in the Kathmandu Valley, seen here on March 29, 2020, and known as one of the world's most polluted cities. Narayan Maharjan / NurPhoto / Getty Images

When countries began going into lockdown last winter and spring, clearer skies from reduced traffic and industry were hailed as a rare bright spot during a difficult time.

Read More Show Less
Trending
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a video speech at the high-level meeting of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 22, 2021. Xinhua / Zhang Cheng via Getty Images

By Anke Rasper

"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less
Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By John R. Platt

The period of the 45th presidency will go down as dark days for the United States — not just for the violent insurgency and impeachment that capped off Donald Trump's four years in office, but for every regressive action that came before.

Read More Show Less
A man stands in front of what is left of his home following Hurricane Iota in Honduras on November 20, 2020. Wendell Escoto / AFP / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

One year after over 11,000 scientists from 153 countries came together to declare a climate emergency and urge ambitious action, the Oregon State University researchers who launched that effort said on Wednesday that an urgent massive-scale mobilization is necessary to address the human-caused global crisis.