Effective energy solutions for your facility
You Have Questions? We Have Answers
We’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive here at ECS energy. If your question isn’t on the list, just give us a call at 201-425-6554 or click here and use our Contact Us form to submit your query directly.
ECS energy offers multiple platforms to monitor your system’s production and performance. These platforms are monitored by ECS on a 24/7 basis and can be viewed on your laptop or your mobile phone.
No, solar panels are integrated with the utility grid and will not operate if the grid is down. The reasons for this are both technical and regulatory.
From a technical perspective, as long as the sun is shining overhead, solar panels will generate power regardless of how much electricity your operation is actually consuming. In a grid-connected system, excess solar power is sent back into the grid for a credit, and any additional power you need beyond what your panels are producing is pulled from the grid. It’s a constant push/pull. Commercial solar aims to significantly reduce the amount of energy you need to purchase during the day, and in doing so, reduce operating expenses through a levelized cost of energy.
Safety regulations are the second reason. During outages, repair crews could be jeopardized if there is a local power generator (like a solar array) leaking power back into the grid lines. For this reason, utility rules mandate that solar arrays must automatically shut down during outages.
The most critical step in any solar journey is first selecting a reputable partner. As this FAQ demonstrates, many variables can impact a commercial solar project’s success. A reputable solar installer will know exactly what to look out for while guiding you through the variables to a fully custom system that meets your project objectives.
Once you’ve decided to go solar, the process is generally broken into four phases. Timelines will vary depending on the complexity of the project and seasonal workload.
- Due Diligence – This is the pre-planning phase designed to ensure a smooth construction process from beginning to end. During due diligence, your solar partner will perform a physical evaluation (site audit) of the proposed site, including all utility interconnects.
- Engineering and Design – Initial concepts and plans are refined into formalized design drawings that are submitted for necessary permits and approvals. Once approved, these drawings are considered final, and construction begins.
- Construction & Commissioning – Construction generally lasts 5-12 weeks, but more complex projects can take longer. Careful planning ensures minimal disruptions to company operations. Once the utility confirms that the system was constructed according to plan and is operating within acceptable parameters, a permission to operate (PTO) is granted.
- Operations & Maintenance – During this final phase, any O&M parameters established during the planning phase are put into action. A solid O&M plan will ensure longevity and optimal performance.
ECS energy operates a full in-house Operations and Maintenance division that facilitates OEM hardware warranties per each manufacturer’s terms. Most panels are covered for 25 years, with inverter warranties typically covering 10 years. In addition, all ECS Commercial systems come with a 1-year workmanship warranty that includes roof penetrations, where applicable. Our O&M department also offers customizable service options for non-ECS solar energy systems.
There are many different panels your company can choose. Size, price, wattage, warranty, durability, and manufacturer stability are all critical considerations when evaluating the best fit. Lower wattage panels usually come at a lower price point, so if roof space isn’t an issue, you may find that a larger number of lower-wattage panels strikes the perfect balance between price and return. Conversely, if your building has limited roof space, a higher wattage panel will produce more energy from a smaller footprint. A knowledgeable commercial solar consultant will be able to explore the various price options and savings scenarios.
The three most common commercial solar incentives are the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), MACRS investment depreciation, and State incentives like the Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
The ITC will offset up to 30% of a commercial solar purchase in the form of a federal tax credit. To qualify for the ITC, a business must have a tax liability upon filing. The 30% tax credit is available through 2032. It will decrease again to 26% in 2033, and 22% in 2034.
MACRS accelerated depreciation is available for every commercial solar system. This is a method of depreciation in which a business’ investments are recovered for tax purposes over a specified period via annual deductions. Currently, the solar asset can be fully depreciated in year1 due to the 100% Bonus Depreciation from the federal government.
Some states have RECs as the performance incentive. A REC is a certificate that is earned from the state for every 1,000 kWh the solar system generates. RECs have a market value and are earned for a pre-determined number of years. In NJ for instance, solar owners earn SRECs that are a fixed value of $100 each for a period of 15 years.
In addition to these, a few local utilities and municipalities offer incentive programs of their own that can be added for even more savings. A knowledgeable commercial solar installer will be able to communicate the options available in your area.
The four most popular ways to pay for a commercial solar system fall into one, or a combination of, the following options: cash, loans, leases or a PPA/SSA. We recommend choosing a cash purchase whenever possible as it offers the most favorable returns, simplifies ownership, and maximizes solar tax incentives.
Second to cash, low-interest loans, or lines of credit offer the next best ROI on your solar investment. We recommend financing only the necessary portion of the net cost after incentives to achieve the best payback.
Leases are very popular for businesses that want to conserve cash in the business and finance the system over 7 years. Capital and operating leases are available through ECS’s funding partners.
Power purchase agreements (PPAs), also known as solar service agreements, are a common way to finance solar installations at commercial and institutional facilities in certain states. ECS energy offers PPA programs through our funding partners.
Nearly all buildings are compatible with solar, so long as the roof is structurally sound and has enough space to accommodate panels and racking. For smaller facilities with limited roof space, ground mounts or solar carports are a good alternative. You must own the building. If you are leasing the facility, the installation would need to be approved by the building owner.
While this might have held some truth in the earlier days of solar energy adoption, prices have remained relatively stable in recent years. Solar panel performance is now so efficient that future improvements are likely to be more incremental.
It’s important to remember that pricing and efficiency are only one part of the solar investment equation. Right now, there are lucrative federal solar incentives that will decrease dramatically in the next ten years. Combine these with increasing utility prices, and the real question becomes: how much money does your company stand to lose while waiting for small improvements in pricing and efficiency?
Many factors contribute to your operation’s savings potential with solar. The biggest being how much energy your business uses throughout the day and what time that consumption is at its peak. These two factors alone show us the potential for energy offset, as well as the price you are currently paying for utility power purchased. From there we look at roof space and general facility infrastructure. The more panels your building can accommodate, the greater the savings potential. In short, arriving at a savings estimate is simply a matter of adding up your total energy use, and then subtracting the production potential offered by your rooftop space. Secondary considerations include panel efficiency, roof orientation, and energy prices in your area.
This question is dependent on several factors like the size of your building, how much energy your company is currently using, and what percentage of your current electricity usage you want to offset. A commercial solar system offsetting 70% of a building’s energy needs will be larger than a system that offsets only 30%. A qualified commercial solar company will help you determine what size system is right for your company and its specific goals.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option for commercial solar. Every system is unique. Arriving at a price begins with your goals and incorporates key structure details such as roof space and any necessary infrastructure additions. Would you like to add solar parking shades as part of your plan, or are you looking for a more basic rooftop array? Do you use more energy at night or during the day? Do you have a tax liability that can be impacted by solar incentives? All of these factors and many more will dictate upfront cost and energy production potential. A reputable commercial solar consultant will be able to guide you through the process and ultimately refine a savings and cost estimate that aligns precisely with your goals and facility.
For most companies, the biggest motivation to go solar is the money they’ll save by reducing monthly power bills and freeing up capital that can be diverted elsewhere or added to their bottom line. Current commercial solar incentives, like the 30% federal investment tax credit, make the savings even better.
Some companies are also looking to improve employee and customer amenities by adding covered parking. Solar shade structures are a great way to turn a shaded parking addition into a savings generator for your business.
Finally, going solar also has a positive community impact as well. Solar will reduce your operation’s carbon footprint in a time when many employees and customers list environmental stewardship as a critical motivator for where they chose to work or do business.
Taking the time to prioritize these goals at the beginning of your solar research will help streamline the proposal and ROI analysis when it comes time to engage a solar design team.
In general conversation, photovoltaic is often used to refer to solar energy technology. Specifically, photovoltaic is the technology which uses silicon crystals and wire conductors to generate solar power. These crystals and wires are strung together into solar panels, which are then strung together to generate the desired amount of wattage.