This year was predicted to be a record year for solar energy adoption, particularly for commercial installations. The benefits – sustainable, clean and a way to lower long-term energy costs – were finally too great for many cities, schools, farms, and businesses to ignore. And then the coronavirus hit and America was sent home to wait out the pandemic.
Like you, Solential Energy has also adopted the work from home approach mandated by many states. However, as an essential business, we continue to consult with customers as we design, build, and maintain solar systems across the Midwest. Here’s something that may surprise you: much of our work is done remotely. The other aspects of solar projects performed on site such as installations and repair/adjustments, require small, specialized technicians who have no problem complying with the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing. In many respects, it’s business as usual.
When we first meet with potential solar customers, the two questions we get most are:
What does the process include?
How long does it take to make the switch to solar?
Those are both great questions! Navigating the world of solar energy can be confusing so we’ve broken it down to five distinct steps. Before I go any further, let me say that Solential is a solar solutions company. This means each project is unique to the customer and encompasses the entire life cycle of a project, from design to construction to maintenance. This is different from solar installers that tend to offer a set of “packages” with little or no customization. Once an installer has an array in place and operational, the project is complete.
Now back to those five steps I mentioned.
Step 1 is a free, one-on-one consultation that covers initial energy analysis and project design. The initial consultation is both fact-finding for us and informational for you. We want to gain an understanding of your objectives and expectation for your solar project. This initial meeting can be done virtually or on-site so that we can determine what type of solar installation is right for you – roof mount, ground or parking canopy – where it will be located and what type of site prep is needed.
Step one will also include an evaluation of your current energy consumption so we can determine your minimum and maximum monthly energy needs. This information generally come from your monthly electricity bills. We will also determine your electrical grid interconnection. From this, we model your consumption pattern, which ultimately influences the scope and required output of your solar array.
Once we’ve defined these key components, Solential creates a customized PV (photovoltaic) system that aligns with your specific needs and objectives and reflects system potential, risks and performance capabilities.
This step takes about a month at the end of which you receive a custom design, including a project rendering of your facility.
Step 2 involves the financing of your solar project. We have developed our own energy-driven investment banking platform to provide you with a streamlined system to help you take advantage of the numerous financial incentives available to solar project owners. This includes monetization of the solar investment tax credit and all of the capital components of this type of investment. Solential’s expertise in providing investors with full analytical, engineering, and development analysis delivers a complete turn-key financial roadmap.
Some of the financial vehicles available to you are Power Purchase Agreements, Equipment Leases and Guaranteed Savings Contracts. There are other funding opportunities such as grants for farmers and even grants for adding pollinator habitat under a ground-mounted solar array.
Once you system is designed, Solential runs a comprehensive financial analysis that includes the cost of implementation, ROI, depreciation benefits, energy cost savings and cash flow analysis. This gives you a comprehensive understanding of all of the financial aspects of your project so you can make the best decision for you. This takes less than a month.
Step 3 addresses permitting and utility interconnection. During this step, Solential secures all required zoning and electrical permits from local, state and federal boards or agencies. We meet with your utility company so they are involved with your project from the beginning and a plan for interconnection your system with their grid is established. Finally, we create a detailed project plan in coordination with you and our contractors. This takes less than a month.
Step 4 focuses on pre-construction planning and procuring the solar panels, racking systems and inverters for your solar system. At this point, your project is assigned to a Solential Project Manager whose job it is to oversee all aspects of pre-construction and construction. In addition to procuring materials, we coordinate logistics, stage product deliveries and schedule the construction/installation technicians. This step takes less than a month.
Step 5 is when your project gets exciting as everything comes together as we install and commission your solar system. The site of your system is prepped for the installation. This differs dramatically based on the type of mount – roof, ground or canopy. Materials are delivered to the site in stages. Your Solential project manager is the field marshall who keeps everything running smoothly, tracking progress, managing all of the construction crew and technicians, holding regular progress meetings, and ensuring the project is in compliance with all state and local safety requirements.
Once all of the racking, panels and inverters are in place, we move to the commissioning phase. This is when we test all of the equipment to ensure it’s functioning properly. We work with your local utility to ensure proper interconnection and participation in other applicable programs. The quality assurance continues as we again go over the system with a fine-toothed comb to make sure everything is in accordance with all state and local building and electrical codes.
Prior to handing the system over to you, we train you on your system as well as on our remote monitoring platform. Developed by Solential, this app lets you track, in real time, how much electricity your system is generating 24/7. It also identifies any potential issues with the system that may need adjusting. Solential also uses the app to monitor solar systems we install during the warranty period and as part of ongoing maintenance agreements. Construction, commissioning and training takes about 3 months.
I hope this has given you an understanding of the process involved with adopting solar energy for your city, school, waste water plant, prison, business or hospital. Each project is unique and may require more or less time. The end result is the same: you’re now enjoying all of the benefits of clean, sustainable solar power and lower energy costs. If you have any questions or would like discuss a future solar project, give me a call at 317-627-4530 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up a video conference or call. I’m in the (home) office everyday with my dog and sometimes in the field. I’d love to hear a human voice and share more about Solential solar solutions. Be safe. Be well. Stay at home. – Corey