The more mainstream solar becomes, the more those with different agendas denounce this clean, cost-effective energy source. That’s to be expected from utilities and others resistant to change. But it really frustrates me when factions within the solar industry spread false information for their own gain.
Recently, I read an article from a commercial solar leasing company that bad-mouthed purchasing solar. The author basically claimed purchasing solar was a death-trap filled with risk, uncertainty, sure financial loss, and probably several species of poisonous viper. In response, I present to you 7 Deadly Myths About Commercial Solar and the realities behind them.
And, to establish my own agenda upfront, we are financing-agnostic here at Clean Energy. We offer purchases, loans, leases and PPAs for commercial solar projects.
Myth #1: Businesses must have large amounts of cash handy to go solar.
Reality: For-profit companies and non-profit organizations have a multitude of financing options to enable their solar investments, including loans, operational and capital leases, and power purchase agreements (PPA). Large amounts of cash are not required. Cash will always be king, and businesses that pay cash for solar reap the greatest financial benefit. But financed systems also provide businesses with superior long-term, double-digit returns, and many are cash-positive within 12-18 months. The right approach for you depends on your tax liability, budget, and investment goals.
Myth #2: Solar is only worth doing if it covers your entire electric bill.
Reality: That’s like saying winning $1 million in the lottery is worth nothing because the jackpot was $5 million. If your roof is small or your electric bill large and solar only covers 20% of your bill, it’s still 20% savings you didn’t have before. Plus, regardless of electricity savings, solar is a completely viable investment that provides a great return based solely on the federal tax credit, accelerated depreciation and “green income.” Electricity savings are merely the icing on the cake.
Myth #3: Getting solar is a lot of work for your company. You’ll need a project manager, you’ll have to procure the materials yourself, you might order the wrong materials, you need a Ph.D. in sustainability and a master’s in electrical engineering, etc.
Reality: Going solar is amazingly simple if you choose a reputable, experienced solar installation partner, who will provide a turnkey system and do 95% of the work for you. Your commitment is usually to approve financing documents, approve the panel layout and location, and sign an agreement.
Myth #4: Things could go wrong with the technology.
Reality: Solar panels have no moving parts and are extremely reliable. Long-term product, service and workmanship warranties should give you peace of mind regarding equipment and economics. But do ask the installers you interview which equipment they use and why. You want a brand that is going to be around long term.
On a related note, I am often asked if a company should wait for solar technology to get even better before installing solar. I reply: If you know your investment will pay for itself in a matter of years and then provide pure profit, why would you wait? If the technology really does start to improve by leaps and bounds, versus the incremental improvement we see these days, then you can take down your system after it has paid for itself, replace it with new technology, and still be ahead of the game. It simply doesn’t pay to wait.
Myth #5: Purchasing solar is often more expensive than financing solar.
Reality: Just not true. The “levelized” price of electricity over the life of your commercial solar energy system is very attractive if you finance, at least a few cents below the retail price of electricity, which easily adds up over time. The levelized cost of electricity if you purchase solar outright? It’s usually negative. Your benefits are more than your electric bill and then some.
Myth #6: Someone at your company will have to maintain your solar, and fix any problems. You’ll have to hire someone with a Ph.D. in sustainability and a master’s in electrical—oh, wait, I’ve already used that one.
Reality: You don’t have to watch for problems, never mind solve them. First, as I said before, there rarely are problems. Solar is essentially maintenance-free with no moving parts to service (except the inverter, which can be covered under a 25-year warranty). Doing business in New England, you can thank Mother Nature for occasionally rinsing pollen and dust off your panels, and as for snow – in a typical winter, snow will melt off your panels before it melts off your roof.
Furthermore, a good installer will provide a way for you to monitor your system’s production online – in real time if you want — using one of today’s straightforward, user-friendly websites like this one:
Myth #7: With solar on your roof, you’re stuck. You can never move to a new building.
Reality: Really? Come on. Having solar on your roof does not lock you into a piece of real estate for life. In fact, studies by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory show that homes with solar sell faster and for more money than homes without solar. A similar study has not been done for commercial properties, but look at it this way: If you were scouting potential offices or warehouses to purchase, and were told one has no electric bill because the building has solar, would it make you more interested in that property?
All of the myths are designed to make you think purchasing solar is a high risk venture, but it’s not. Whether you pay cash or finance solar for your business or non-profit organization, it’s a low risk proposition. The best option for you depends on your company, but one of the factors is not “risk appetite” because the risk is so minimal in all scenarios.
Don’t let myths and falsehoods kill your interest in solar before you’ve even looked into it. Let us explain your options, help you select the right one for you, and generate a proposal based on reality.
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