How Solar Impacts Your Building and Roof Maintenance
By: Pivot Energy
June 3 2021
Solar panels are an excellent investment if you want to decrease your building’s operational costs, increase resiliency against power outages, and meet your company’s sustainability goals. However, facility managers may be concerned that solar arrays would raise building maintenance issues and come with unforeseen challenges. The worry is that this will decrease the net savings from solar and cause a headache for facility managers over the long term.
These concerns, while understandable, can be mitigated during the solar development process. Solar energy systems require very little maintenance and are designed for durability against snow, rain, wind, dust, and varying weather conditions. Depending on who owns the solar energy system, the facility manager may not even need to spend time dealing with solar energy maintenance.
If you are a facility manager that wants to know precisely how installing a solar energy system will affect your job, keep reading. This article will cover exactly how solar will (and will not) impact your maintenance budget, roof warranty, and other factors.
Solar maintenance costs
The impact of solar energy on your building’s maintenance will depend on how project ownership is structured. Companies can either purchase a system directly or enter into a third-party ownership structure, like a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), where the solar developer is the owner of the system.
In the direct ownership model, your company reaps all the financial incentives that are available for solar. While this option has a higher upfront cost, the return on investment is greater than other solar models. This can make it a preferred method for many businesses, particularly for companies interested in reducing their tax liability. The downside is that the building’s facility manager would then take responsibility for ongoing maintenance. Like other building operations, solar maintenance can be outsourced to a contractor, but some oversight may still be necessary.
Fortunately, because solar technology is static-state, it’s relatively straightforward to maintain the solar equipment on your property. One of the only annual preventative maintenance requirements is to remove debris from the intake vents on the solar inverters, which does not require electrical training. While some may opt to dust snow or dirt off of the solar panels, there is little need for this as any daily or weekly reduction in output is made up over the annual production of the system. Thanks to policies such as net-metering, systems are often sized with this “soiling” taken into account (the labor to clean modules is often more expensive than the lost value of energy). Another component of solar ownership is accessing the solar array’s Data Acquisition System (DAS) and ensuring someone on staff is trained on alerts, though the solar vendor is also receiving these messages.
If your company goes the PPA route, the solar developer becomes responsible for maintaining the panels in addition to bearing all the upfront costs of installing the arrays. In exchange, the building owner will enter into a long-term agreement (typically 20-25 years) with the solar developer to purchase the energy produced from the system at a per kilowatt-hour rate. This rate includes operations and maintenance throughout the contracted term, taking that off the facility manager’s plate.
In short, companies don’t typically base their solar decision on the maintenance of the panels. Regardless of which ownership model is chosen, maintenance costs remain relatively minor, and corrective maintenance can largely be avoided with proper preventative care.
Impact on roof warranty
A good roof is usually a significant investment and requires constant care. A building owner typically has a warranty for the roof – either from the manufacturer of the materials or the company that installed it. These warranties can span anywhere from 10 to 25 years, depending on the roof type and materials used.
Facility managers may be concerned that installing a solar energy system would void the roof warranty altogether. However, in most cases, this does not happen if you hire an experienced solar installer that can ensure all roof warranties are maintained.
An experienced solar installer will conduct an audit of your roof before placing any equipment on it. This allows them to understand whether your roof has enough load capacity to take the additional weight of the solar arrays. If the installer feels there is a possibility of damaging the roof, they may suggest an alternative location at the facility to place the solar energy system, such as above a parking lot. If roof modifications are required, Pivot will work with the facility’s roofer to make any adjustments. Pivot will also enlist the roofer of record to reinspect the roof post-installation to ensure the roof warranty is upheld.
All in all, the process of installing solar will be highly hands-on and tailored to fit the needs of your property. Facility managers should be forthcoming with any concerns during the design process so that the solar developer can ensure that the building is protected for the long haul.
Addressing solar durability concerns
Solar manufacturers are aware that panels are placed in open areas where they are exposed to different weather types. As a result, they have been tested and designed to withstand extreme events – even hail storms!
Of course, like most things, solar is not 100 percent indestructible. In severe cases, hurricanes or tornadoes may damage your solar energy system. However, this is where your solar warranty comes in handy. Solar installations include manufacturer warranties (often 25 years for solar panels) and should also include a workmanship warranty. In the rare instance of damaged equipment, recovery is covered as part of an insurance claim and an experienced vendor will satisfy repairs.
Contact the solar experts
Working with an experienced solar developer is crucial to your solar energy system’s success. Pivot has worked on more than 430 small and large-scale commercial solar projects across 16 states. We work with clients every step of the way and ensure that each solar system is built specifically to the property’s needs.
Pivot Energy offers turnkey services at each step and free consultation so that facility managers can make an informed decision about choosing solar. To learn more, reach out to speak with a member of our team today.