Every time I fly into a city I’m amazed at the number of naked, white, empty flat commercial rooftops that should be producing megawatts of power. Even in solar friendly cities such as San Jose there are only a few blue rooftops that one can see from the air. On this week’s Energy Show we’ll be talking about the tremendous opportunity for installing solar on flat roof commercial buildings.
There are three reasons why commercial solar hasn’t grown as quickly as residential and utility solar. The first is customer economics: most commercial buildings are occupied by tenants who pay the electric bills, so the building owner does not have a compelling financial motivation to invest in solar to reduce the tenant’s operating costs. The second reason is that many building owners do not have the up-front capital for installing solar, nor do they have the long-term credit viability for a PPA or lease. The third reason is that, even with the ITC and low solar panel prices, the payback is still three to five years — too long for businesses making shorter term investments.
Fortunately, technology for installing solar on flat roof commercial buildings has continued to improve, reducing the mounting system and labor costs substantially. These new mounting systems are able to maintain the roof’s structural integrity, while at the same time addressing seismic and water intrusion issues.
My special guest on this week’s Energy Show is Costa Nicalaou, CEO of PanelClaw. They have completed nearly 10,000 flat roof projects in 30 countries and over 2,000 permit offices. Please listen up as Costa explains PanelClaw’s newest products, and how they provide supporting engineering and permitting services to their network of commercial rooftop installers.
Solar combined with battery storage seems like magic to many residential and commercial customers. With a million and a half systems installed in the U.S., the question is no longer: “does solar work?” Instead, customers want to know how much money they will save with a system. And commercial customers are even more diligent about accurate savings predictions. (more…)
There are there are three market segment for solar in the U.S.: residential, utility and commercial. Based on some rough math, in 2018 we expect to install 5 to 7 million solar panels on homes in the U.S. In areas with high residential electric rates, paybacks are usually in the range of 4-8 years. But the utility solar segment is much larger: about 20 million solar panels will be installed by utilities in 2018. Utilities realize that it is cheaper to generate power with solar compared to coal or nuclear generation. Moreover, the combination of solar and batteries is projected to be even cheaper than natural gas in a few years. (more…)
Great solar policy is just as important as great solar technology. Obviously we need the technologies for these products — but we also need the policies so that solar products can be cost-effectively installed. And I’m not just talking about incentives…policies related to net metering, interconnection and permitting are just as important. (more…)
Electric utilities got their start in the U.S. in the 1880s. Thomas Edison began transmitting DC power as he literally illuminated the world. Then George Westinghouse (with help from Nikolai Tesla) deployed a better way of delivering electricity with AC power. Both Edison and Westinghouse went on to build tremendously successful companies, aptly named General Electric and Westinghouse Electric respectively. Although dominant in the 20th century, both companies have struggled in the 21st century. (more…)
Success in the solar industry requires leaders with a diverse skill set. Leaders must really understand the technology’s evolution, be effective with sales and marketing, coordinate what always seem to be chaotic operations, juggle financial issues and manage a growing team. I’m always interested in learning from people who have this diverse background — and have demonstrated success in the solar industry. (more…)