Choosing to install solar panels on your commercial roof can be a great way to increase the sustainability of your building and reduce energy costs. However, it isn't as simple as fixing a few units to your roof. Rather, there are a few questions you need to answer before proceeding with the project. Initially, you need to address two main things:
How Much Shading is Present?
The first thing you need to consider when assessing the viability of installing solar PV on your company's roof is how much shading is present from the environment. Evidently, shading can have a major impact on the efficiency of your solar panels - if there are items in the way of direct sunlight, your solar installation will not generate as much energy.
When it comes to assessing the level of shading present, you need to consider a number of different things:
- Temporary shading from snow, fallen leaves, and dust.
- Horizontal shading from mounting systems.
- Natural shading from structural elements, such as chimney stacks and satellite dishes.
- Direct shading from external communication masts and other distant structures.
The level of shading present not only affects the performance of the affected panel, but also of the overall solar installation. As such, it is imperative that you fully assess your location in order to determine the level of sunlight you will be able to harness.
How Will You Mount the Systems?
In order to choose the best mounting system for your solar PV panels, you will need to assess the existing structure. For commercial buildings, there are two main types of system – ballasted and roof-mounted.
Ballasted systems are the easiest type of system to install as they do not require intrusive fixings onto the roof. Rather, they utilise deadweight in order to hold the panels in place. As such, they are a suitable option for structures that are made of material that may suffer from degradation, as this may cause attached systems to become weak. On the other hand, ballasted systems require the existing structure to be strong and rigid as the roof will be placed under significantly more load. As such, it is important to have a full structural assessment carried out before considering a ballasted installation.
Attached roof-mounted systems are better suited for lightweight structures where the roof cannot take a significant increase in loading. Additionally, roof-mounted systems are more diverse and can be attached to a wide range of building materials. However, because they require penetration into the roof, they may compromise the weather seal provided by the roofing membrane.
Installing solar panels on your commercial roof can be difficult; however, by addressing the two questions above, you will be on the way to a sustainable and cost-efficient solution for your company.