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5 Misconceptions About Commercial Solar Energy
Some come from simple misunderstandings (technological or otherwise). Others are generated by internet chatter or rumors. Still others started as concerns about residential solar that expanded to include commercial, industrial and municipal solar as well. Solar energy is often a critical part of an organization’s ESG initiative. Here, we present five of the most common misconceptions about deploying solar energy — commercial, industrial and municipal solar in particular — and shine some critical factual light on them.
1. “Installing commercial solar is cost prohibitive.”
While some think they’ll need a lot of capital on hand for the design and installation of a photovoltaic (PV) system, or a loan from a third-party institution, often neither is required. DSD has the financial resources to develop projects with funding secured; and, with the right arrangement, can even offer it to the customer with no money down.
Solar energy is now the cheapest electricity in history. And, solar installations are often subsidized by excellent tax incentives at both the federal and state levels. By some estimates, commercial businesses’ energy costs went down as much as 75% after solar installation. Add in programs like net metering, which is available in much of the country, and solar presents huge financial benefits for your company.
Solar installations also help hedge against volatile and uncertain energy costs from fossil fuels. The first half of 2022 demonstrates just how quickly prices in oil and natural gas can change, but the energy costs from solar installations remain steady and provides cost certainty for your business.
2. “Solar panels don’t generate power
on cloudy or snowy days.”
Solar panels collect light. So, even when you don’t see “sunshine” — like on cloudy or rainy days — the light generated by the sun can be collected and converted to energy. One might picture a solar array working under the blazing sunlight on a desert (and of course they work perfectly well there!), but solar panels will generate electricity virtually anywhere and anytime there’s light to be collected, regardless of the cloud coating or temperature.
Even most snow won’t stop solar panels from working. Light can still make it through a small coating of snow. A heavy coating of snow will have an effect, but just a fraction of the panel needs to be exposed — via wind or melt-off — for clean energy generation to occur again.
This is another area where net metering plays an important role. If the weather prevents a solar array from producing maximum energy, a system set up with net metering allows your company to effectively use the credits from previously produced solar energy that was sent back to the grid. And if you have a battery storage system, it may not even come to that as it’s possible the batteries won’t be exhausted before the system begins generating again.
3. “Solar decreases the reliability of
the energy supply.”
Quite the opposite. Solar power can actually increase the available energy supply from the grid and make it cleaner and more reliable.
Your facility’s solar array isn’t disconnected from the main power grid. Rather, the grid and your solar equipment work together. During times when your organization needs more energy than
the solar array can produce, you can pull it from the grid. Conversely, when your solar equipment is producing more energy than you need, it can push that energy back to the grid.
This is particularly beneficial to the community energy grid when electricity usage is at its highest, which is on hot sunny days, and that happens to be one of the times solar produces an abundance of energy.
So, far from making the energy supply less reliable for an organization, commercial and community solar actually makes energy availability more reliable for everyone.
4. “Solar panels do more
environmental harm than good.”
The net positive impact solar panels have on the environment is clear with a quick look at their lifespans.
Studies have concluded that PV systems can produce the equivalent amount of energy that was used to manufacture them within one to four years. Most PV systems have operating lives of up to 25 years or more. This means that there is an overwhelming gain in clean energy with PV systems, from manufacturing through retirement.
Once the panels need to be replaced, they are recyclable. Given that more and more early solar installations are being upgraded with new equipment, there’s a growing market for recycling the old parts. New technology is being developed to make the recycling of PV installations even easier and more financially viable.
Additionally, reusing some of the valuable elements in solar equipment, like silver and silicon, could help to reduce unnecessary mining.
5. “Batteries, for energy storage,
are dangerous and toxic.”
When properly installed, energy storage batteries are as safe as any energy source available.
Incidents like a battery fire from a well-installed system are extremely uncommon. The concern of battery risk is a little like that of flying in planes: though air travel is far safer than car travel, many people feel safe in the familiar seat of their car. But that doesn’t make plane travel, nor battery usage, something to stay away from.
It is important to choose the right battery for the right location. As solar adoption increases, knowledge of the various battery types is also increasing; batteries are no longer treated as a one-size-fits-all option. When variables like purposing and local weather are considered, and the battery is installed properly and maintained well, you can feel confident in its safety protocol.
Some of the earliest battery systems are beginning to come to the end of their lifespans. Like solar panels, batteries are also recyclable, and the market for doing so is growing.
Renewable energy is the fastest-growing energy source in the United States. But most of that growth came in the last ten years — so solar still feels like a relatively new form of green energy. And with anything new, misconceptions will abound as people try to get a handle on what’s real.
The best way to sort truth from fiction? Have a conversation with a DSD expert. We’re happy to dispel the myths, clarify the facts, and show you what’s possible when it comes to how your organization uses energy.
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