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How much can solar energy save for a fitness club owner? That is what many operators must be wondering when it comes to rooftop or parking lot solar at their premises.
Saving on solar is not easy to predict given the complexities of every project. The outcome depends on actual utility rate plans, the load pattern of the facility, solar production on site based on orientation and weather, equipment design choices, local labor rates, local tax and utility incentives, the cost of capital (if the project is financed) and several other factors.
Large resorts in California can benefit from $0.5 million to $1 million in savings per year for ground-mount based projects. Smaller businesses such as retailers, small stores and strip malls can also save through rooftop systems.
A larger system does not always mean higher savings, as utility rate tiers have varying prices. The highest return might be from a smaller system designed to take off the peak-priced tier of usage only.
The price of a fully-installed system is largely a factor of installation labor, permitting, design engineering, financing and related soft costs. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s latest studies, the software costs of a solar project are often as high as 45 percent of the total installed price.
Needless to say, there can be large variations in bids from different contractors asked to submit project quotes. It is critical for building owners to understand what they are paying for when it comes to contractor bids.
Finally, long-term maintenance and operations is the most important aspect that owners ignore. Paybacks on solar investment are often after 4 to 5 years, with a 25-year warranty period. In order to realize such returns, owners must appoint independent operations and maintenance teams that support the installation commissioning process, and then take over asset monitoring. Scheduled preventive maintenance and annual clean-ups are some best practices to avoid missed warranty deadlines.
Mark Chapman is director of corporate energy services at ENACT SYSTEMS. Please reach out to the corporate energy services team at ENACT SYSTEMS. Send your Solar project questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 855.50.ENACT.