Installing Solar on Flat Roof Commercial Buildings

Installing Solar on Flat Roof Commercial Buildings

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 Power in the Sunshine State

When I first got into solar, Florida seemed to be a natural market. After all, it’s the sunshine state. In spite of the sun, there is one big problem that was holding back the market: the state of Florida prohibits residents from purchasing electricity from a source other than a utility. Unlike all other sunny states in the U.S., third party solar companies such as SolarCity, SunRun and Vivint are prohibited from providing solar leases and PPAs to homeowners. This utility-biased state policy has made it difficult for homeowners to finance their rooftop solar systems.

Fortunately, affordable solar loans are now available in Florida. These low interest and easy qualification loans help homeowners get to positive cash flow (electricity savings > financing costs). As a result, the rooftop solar industry in Florida is finally growing, in spite of the utilities’ anti-competitive policies.

My guest this week is Justin Hoysradt, CEO of Vinyasun, one of the leading residential solar installers in Florida. Please join me on this week’s Energy Show as Justin talks about the opportunities for rooftop solar in Florida, as well as some of their unique requirements — such as mounting systems and panels that can resist hurricane-force winds.