Solar Roof Options for Commercial Buildings

Elite Roofing contractor working a commercial building with solar roof.

Is it the right time for your commercial building to install solar PV panels? While solar roof options for commercial buildings isn’t feasible for every business, it’s no secret that going solar has numerous financial, environmental, and business benefits. Many Canadians have already decided that solar is the right choice, with our solar energy capacity having grown by 13.6% year-over-year in 2021 and 25.9% in 2022 alone. 

Here are some basics about solar PV systems, why they may help your business prosper, and how it may affect. Just keep in mind that solar incentives are always changing, so be sure to check for new information as you decide whether or not to move ahead. Here is a recent case study about a partial roof placement existing solar panels in Brampton.

What is solar PV energy?

Solar PV (photovoltaic) materials and devices convert sunlight into electrical energy. Individual PV cells are connected to form larger units known as modules or panels. They can be used individually or connected into larger arrays.  

Building owners will work with their contractor to determine which option will be used to attach the solar panels to the rooftop: attached, ballasted, or a hybrid system.

Pros of solar roof options for commercial buildings

The decreasing cost of panels

Building owners are often put off by the upfront costs of solar panels. However, these costs are balanced by long-term gains. In the last 10 years, PV systems have dropped over 60% making them much more affordable. 

High return on Investment  

Commercial solar PV systems usually last around 30 years or more. Companies typically recover their initial investment in 5-12 years. After payback, the savings are significant for nearly 20 years or longer. 

Predictable energy expenses

In addition to reducing monthly energy costs, paying a consistent amount each month helps businesses better predict operational expenses and plan for cash flow. Solar also acts as a hedge against inflation, with energy costs locked in. With energy costs continuing to rise, the consistent solar cost also acts as a hedge against inflation by locking in energy costs. 

Revenue-generating plans

There are several ways businesses can use their solar PV systems and their rooftops as a way to generate revenue:

  • Net Metering: Sometimes your PV system generates more energy than you need. When it doesn’t generate enough, you need to draw energy from the grid. With a net metering contract, Toronto Hydro takes the surplus energy from your system and credits it to your electric bill. Credits that exceed your monthly consumption will be carried over to future bills for up to 12 months. 
  • Rooftop Leasing: Businesses can buy a solar system outright, or they can lease or finance it from a third-party solar installer. In a financing agreement, the installer designs, permits, finances and installs the system on the customer’s property. Businesses can either pay the third party a fixed price per kWh generated for a fixed period (usually 20 years), or they can pay the installer a fixed monthly “rent” rather than pay for the power generated).

Federal and local sustainability incentive programs

  • Energy Retrofit Loan (ERL) Program (Toronto): The ERL program offers low-interest loans to help building owners invest in energy improvements including solar and storage. The ERL offers fixed-rate financing for up to 100% of the project costs at a rate equal to the City’s cost of borrowing.

High Reliability

Solar panels are highly reliable and low-maintenance. Before installation, make sure to have an infrared roof scan and a professional roof inspection performed. 

Sustainability

Decrease your carbon footprint by generating clean, emission-free energy, along with green branding to show corporate responsibility and commitment to sustainability.

Good for tenants

Rooftop solar delivers electricity to tenants at lower, less volatile prices than fossil fuels. 

Increased property value

Owning a commercial building with rooftop space that is available for a solar PV system may be a selling point that increases property value. 

Cons of solar roof systems on commercial buildings

If there are so many potential benefits, why isn’t solar right for every commercial building? Here are some factors that developers and building owners should consider when making this significant decision.

Substantial upfront costs

The cost to install a solar system can vary depending on financing options.

Unpredictable weather

Solar cells can be advantageous even in cooler climates like Toronto, although a building may need more panels to produce the same amount of electricity as in warmer areas.

Electrical needs

If installing a system on an existing structure, the building may need to update the roof’s electrical system.  

Potential Roof Damage

Find a highly reputable solar installer who will successfully navigate roof drains, vents, exhaust fans, rooftop units, curbs and parapets. When a building with solar panels has a leak or other roofing issue, the owner should always hire a roofing contractor with experience working on flat roofs with solar installations. Equally important, the roof should have a professional inspection twice a year. They identify any existing or potential issues resulting from the solar installation.

Factors to consider for solar roof options for commercial buildings

There’s no easy answer to whether solar is right for you because there are many factors and considerations. If you move forward, the decision on which type of system will be influenced by the building construction method, roof design, and structural engineering analysis. Choose to work with experienced, reputable roofing companies and solar installers. They will help determine if solar will deliver the efficiency, ROI, and other advantages that are important to you.

Factors in your decision will include:

  • Local climate
  • Solar cell material and reflectivity
  • Roof condition
  • Building orientation
  • Shading (and shadows of other roof-mounted equipment)
  • Energy consumption patterns
  • Zoning regulations, building codes, and local laws, including Solar Permitting and Regulations in Toronto and guidance from the Canada Energy Regulator (CER)
  • Financial incentives
  • Return on investment

Partner with the right roofer for your solar energy plans for your commercial building.

A new solar installation has the potential for financial, sustainability, and revenue-generating benefits–but it’s not right for every business. If you are considering rooftop solar PV panels, select a commercial roofing company with solid experience inspecting, maintaining, and repairing flat roofs. Elite Roofing can help you explore your solar roof options. We keep your rooftop in the best condition for continued performance and longevity. Contact Elite Roofing today