Solar Panels for Commercial Buildings

Steps to installing solar panels on commercial properties

The solar installer team at Energy Creation have installed several solar panels for commercial buildings both in the public and private sector. If you are looking for a commercial solar PV installation we recommend reading this page —> Commercial Solar PV

The benefits of Commercial Solar Panels

There are several benefits to having solar panels fitted to your commercial building. We think that the top three are:

  • Financial Benefits

With government incentives such as the feed in tariff businesses can earn a return on their investment in as little as 7 years.

  • Protection against rising electricity prices

Everybody with any sense knows that energy prices are rising and will continue to do so. Solar panels is a way to protect against these rising costs.

  • Reduction in your companies CO2 emissions

Solar panels are considered a green technology. Therefore every kWh of electricity you generate with the solar is a reduction in your businesses carbon emissions.

For more about –> Benefits of installing Commercial Solar Panels.

According to a UK Government study in March 2013 it is estimated that electricity costs for medium-sized business could rise by as much as 49%.

Steps to installing solar panels for commercial clients

There are several steps involved in installing solar panels on your commercial building. As a company we work to the following procedure.

1) Initial enquiry

Businesses contact us for an initial discussion as to whether it’s feasible to install solar panels in their commercial environment. Cost, budgets and electricity usage are briefly discussed at this stage to ensure that we design the system that suits your financial requirements. Have both your electricity bills and rough budget to hand before calling.

We will discuss your company’s solar panel requirements. We will want to know your motivation behind having solar installed and if you have any particular requirements.

2) Desk-top survey

Generally it’s pretty easy to complete a desk-top survey when considering Solar Panels for Commercial Buildings. Using google earth we will start to calculate the orientation, pitch and area of your roof. 90% of the time we will be able to identify the most suitable space for the solar panels at this stage.

3) Initial Quotation

Taking into account all the information gathered up to this point we should be in a position to quote for Solar Panels for your commercial building. At this stage the quote is subject to a site survey but its comprehensive enough for you to formulate a budget.

4) Site Survey

If the project is looking feasible both from an engineering stand point and is within budget a site visit is then booked with both our roofing and electrical technicians.

We are not a sales company so there will not be a hard sell. It’s simply a feasibility study to check that everything can be done as we have said in our initial quotation.

5) Final Quotation

We are now at a stage where we can issue our final quotation making adjustments for anything we may have found during our site survey. For example we may have found that there is a need for additional electrical requirements or roofing improvements. This quote is final although will have a time limit and some exclusions such as anything that the DNO also known as District Network Operator require or any extras that become apparent following any structural surveys etc.

6) Planning Stage

Although actual planning permission may not be needed planning is important to move forward. Work needs to be done such as technical drawings, electrical calculations, structural surveys and DNO applications.

In short, the DNO application is getting permission to connect to the grid. All systems above 16 Amps or 4 Kilowatts per phase must be applied for.

If it is a ground mounted solar installation then ground studies must take place prior to starting. Because of the work load we ask for a fee at this point. Usually to be deducted from the final bill should the project progress.

7)Pre-start meeting

Installing solar panels on commercial buildings can have its complications. It is important to discuss these complications and site requirements before work commences. This like site rules, health and safety, access and welfare facilities will be amongst the topics discussed.

8)Access / Scaffolding

When installing solar on a commercial building it is likely that scaffolding will be needed. This will be installed prior to the installation of the solar panels.  Most solar installer use sub-contract scaffolding companies.

9) Installation

Once the solar panels have been delivered along with mounting materials installation will start. Installation times vary but as a guide a 50kW installation could be completed in as little as one week.

Mounting kit is installed to the roof structure and panels are fastened down as the installers work along the roof. Each panel is connected by a qualified solar electrician. Roofing works will be happening at the same time as electrical works.

The solar panels will be connected into strings as per the design these will then be connected into the inverter(s). It is likely that more than one inverter will have to be installed but this will depend on the size of the installation.

10) Commissioning

After the solar panels and inverters have been installed the system will need testing and the results recorded onto commission certificates.

The solar installers will be testing for voltage and current. They will be expecting to get values within a known range depending on solar radiance (how bright the sun is shining).

If the values are correct then the system is switched on and the inverters are configured. If the values are incorrect then fault finding begins until the reason is found and corrected.

The electrical installation is also checked and certain earth values and resistances are checked and recorded. These will form part of the Electrical installation certificate.

11) Handover

Once commissioning is finished, all the checks have been completed and are satisfactory we will start the handover process.

It is best that a handover session is booked with site maintenance staff, managers and others involved in the solar panels being installed. The system is demonstrated to the customer and maintenance staffs are made aware of how to start up and shut down the system, if needed.

A handover pack is produced. This usually contains the following:

  • A handover certificate that shows the components that have been installed, their warranties and other basic information about the system.
  • An Electrical installation certificate, all solar installations will have an electrical installation of at least one circuit, therefore an electrical certificate must be provided to the building owner.
  • PV Test result sheets, each string of solar panels will have been tested for things like voltage, current, insulation resistance and polarity. All these probably don’t make any sense to most people. It is vital that these are recorded because it a record to show that the system was checked and is working correctly. The results will make sense to most electricians and ma come in hand for future maintenance checks.
  • MCS Certification, all systems upto 50kW require an MCS certificate. It forms part of the handover and is given once the system has been commissioned.
  • Schematic Diagram, a schematic diagram is basically an electrical layout in a line diagram format. It can be fairly basic in most domestic solar installations. They can be more complex when installing solar panels on a commercial building. Commercial buildings usually have more complex electrical systems and it is important that the schematics tie in with the exsisting so that the make sense.
  • Panel and Inverter Warranties, pretty standard when handing over any type of equipment. It goes without saying that these should be kept safe with the solar handover documents incase anything does go wrong.
  • Panel and Inverter Information, it is important to retain the official documents that show the exact make and model of the equipment being used. For example you may have installed Yingli 250W panels, but there is more than one type of Yingli 250W panel. It’s not always easy to pop onto the roof and check the back of the panel as to which make and model you had. It may never be necessary to know, but if you had to claim a warranty it would be important then.
  • 12) Maintenance

We like to think of Solar PV Panels as fit and forget technology. (kind of). If you compare it with other renewable technologies such as solar thermal and Air source heat pumps the maintenance list seems rather short.

So what’s needed in the maintenance schedule? For commercial buildings and larger solar installations we recommend that some preventive maintenance is periodically completed. Tasks such as checking cables, ensuring circuit breakers are function correctly and checking earth paths amongst other things. If a potential issue can be prevented then there will be no lost yield.

Things can happen, inverters, trip switches and cabling have all been known to fail. It would make sense to have a corrective maintenance plan with your installer. An agreement can be set up so that a response target time is met. For example a 48 hour turn around. This aids to reduce yield loss. It’s important to protect your investment.

There have been studies that prove solar panel cleaning increases solar yield. We recommend using de-ionised water. Good window cleaning companies have long extendable brushes. There isn’t a major difference between glass and solar panels making cleaning an ideal job for window cleaners.



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