As businesses increasingly seek to reduce their environmental impact and cut costs, solar panels have emerged as a popular solution for generating clean, renewable energy. But with a variety of factors to consider, from panel quality to installation requirements, selecting the right solar panel system for your business can be a daunting task. In this solar guide, I‘ll provide a comprehensive overview of solar panels for business, including how they work, the different types available, and what to look for when making your investment. With our expert insights, you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed decision and reap the benefits of sustainable energy for your business
How Do Solar Panels Work
Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) panels, work by converting sunlight into electricity. The process by which this occurs is known as the photovoltaic effect.
Several layers of silicon, phosphorous, and boron make up each PV cell that makes up a solar panel; however, silicon is the most often used material in commercialized solar panels. The placement of these components ensures that an electric field exists inside each cell.
The Science Behind Solar Panels
When sunlight hits a PV cell, it knocks electrons loose from the atoms in the cell’s silicon layers. This creates a flow of electrons, which can be harnessed and used as an electric current.
The electric current generated by the PV cells is direct current (DC), which needs to be converted into alternating current (AC) in order to be used by the appliances and electronics in your home or business. This is done by an inverter, which is typically installed alongside the solar panels.
The AC electricity generated by the solar panels and converted by the inverter can be used immediately by the home or business, or it can be stored in a solar battery for later use. When excess energy is generated, it can also be sold back to the grid, earning the home or business owner credits on their electricity bill, also known as FiT (Feed in Tariff)
In general, solar panels function by catching solar energy and turning it into useful power. This method is highly effective and may make a home or business substantially less dependent on fossil fuels, producing a more sustainable and ecologically friendly source of energy.
Different Types of Solar Panels
There are three main types of solar panels:
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
These panels are made from a single, high-grade silicon crystal and are the most efficient and longest-lasting of the three types. They have a black or dark blue appearance and are known for their high-power output and small size. Monocrystalline panels are often the most expensive option due to their higher efficiency and manufacturing process.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
These panels are made by melting multiple fragments of silicon together, resulting in a slightly lower efficiency compared to monocrystalline panels. They have a distinctive blue color and are slightly larger than monocrystalline panels. However, they are more affordable and easier to manufacture.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
These panels are made by depositing thin layers of photovoltaic material onto a substrate, such as glass or metal. They have a uniform black appearance and can be flexible or rigid. Thin-film panels are less efficient than crystalline panels but can be more cost effective and are often used for large-scale installations.
Here is an example of a 50kW Commercial Solar Panel System Design & Cost
Designing a 50kW solar panel system requires a thorough understanding of the facility or building’s energy needs, available space, and local climate conditions. Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how a 50kW solar panel system could be designed.
Please keep in mind that this is only an illustration and not a real quote of any kind because the parameters of the solar system differ drastically across different properties.
Determine energy needs
The first step is to determine the energy needs of the facility or building where the solar panels will be installed. This involves calculating the average daily energy consumption, peak demand, and any other specific requirements.
Let’s assume that the facility has an average daily energy consumption of 200 kWh, a peak demand of 50 kW, and operates for 8 hours per day. Based on these figures, the facility requires a solar panel system that can generate an average of 25 kW per hour (200 kWh / 8 hours) and a peak output of 50 kW.
Assess available space
The next step is to assess the available space for the solar panels. A 50kW solar panel system typically requires between 3,00 and 4,00 square meters of the roof or ground space, depending on the type of solar panels used.
Let’s assume that the available space is 4,00 square meters on the roof of the facility. This provides enough space for approximately 160 solar panels, assuming each panel is 250 watts and measures about 3.25 feet by 5.5 feet.
Calculate solar panel output
The output of a solar panel is dependent on several factors, including the efficiency of the panels, the angle and orientation of the panels, and the amount of sunlight available in the location where the panels will be installed.
Let’s assume that the solar panels have an average efficiency of 18% and are installed at an angle of 34 degrees facing north (assuming the facility is located in the southern hemisphere). Based on the location of the facility and typical weather patterns, we can estimate that the solar panels will receive an average of 5 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Using these assumptions, each solar panel will generate an average of 1.125 kWh per day (250 watts x 5 hours x 18% efficiency). With 160 solar panels installed, the total daily output of the solar panel system will be 180 kWh (1.125 kWh x 160 panels).
Size the inverter
The inverter is responsible for converting the DC output from the solar panels into AC power that can be used by the facility. The inverter must be sized to handle the maximum output of the solar panel system.
Based on the assumptions above, the solar panel system will have a peak output of 50 kW. To handle this peak output, we will need an inverter with a capacity of at least 50 kW.
Estimate system costs
Finally, it’s important to estimate the costs of the solar panel system, including the panels, inverter, mounting hardware, and installation. The cost of a 50kW solar panel system can vary widely depending on several factors, including the type of solar panels used, the location of the facility, and the availability of incentives and rebates.
Assuming a cost of $1.50 per watt, the total cost of the solar panel system would be approximately $75,000 ($1.50 per watt x 50,000 watts).
Overall, designing a 50kW solar panel system requires careful planning and consideration of several factors. By carefully assessing energy needs, available space, and system output, it’s possible to design a solar panel system that provides clean, renewable energy and significant cost savings over time.
What Exactly to Look For when You are Buying Commercial Solar Panels
If you’re considering purchasing solar panels for your business, there are several key factors to consider to ensure that you choose the right system for your needs. Here are some important things to look for when buying solar panels for business:
Quality: The quality of solar panels is crucial to their long-term performance and reliability. Look for panels that reputable manufacturers make with a proven track record of producing high-quality products. Panels that are certified by independent testing organizations like TÜV Rheinland or the CSIRO are typically a good indicator of quality.
Efficiency: The efficiency of solar panels refers to the amount of sunlight they can convert into electricity. Higher-efficiency panels will generate more electricity for the same amount of sunlight, which can be especially important if you have limited roof or ground space for your solar panel system. SunPower solar panels hold the highest efficiency rate of 22.8% in today’s market.
Durability: Solar panels are designed to withstand a range of weather conditions, from extreme heat to heavy snow and wind. Look for panels that are rated for high durability and are designed to withstand the weather conditions in your area.
Warranty: A warranty is an important consideration when purchasing solar panels for your business. Look for panels that come with a comprehensive warranty that covers both the panels themselves and their performance over time.
Cost: The cost of solar panels is also an important factor to consider, as it will impact your overall return on investment. Look for panels that offer a good balance of quality, efficiency, and cost, and consider the long-term savings that you could achieve through reduced energy costs.
Installation and maintenance: Finally, consider the installation and maintenance requirements of the solar panels. Look for panels that are easy to install and require minimal ongoing maintenance, and consider working with an experienced installer who can help you navigate the process.
By considering these factors when purchasing solar panels for your business, you can choose a system that provides reliable, cost-effective renewable energy for years to come.
But The Best Course of Action is to Consult a Solar Professional
While understanding the key factors to consider when buying solar panels is important, designing and installing a solar panel system for a business is a complex process that requires specialized knowledge and expertise. Consulting with a reputable solar professional is the best course of action to ensure that you choose the right system for your business based on your specific energy needs, budget, and other requirements.
A professional solar installer can also provide guidance on the best location and orientation for the panels, obtain necessary permits and approvals, and ensure that the system is installed and connected safely and efficiently. Ultimately, working with a solar professional can help you achieve the maximum benefits of solar power for your business.