For a business owner, saving money on the electricity bill should be the primary focus of a commercial solar solution, and rightfully so. Electricity can be an extremely large and painful expense for a business. In CT for example, it is not unheard of for a 10K square foot motel to spend $4,000/month for electricity...even higher if there is an outdoor heated pool. Manufacturing facilities, such as centerless grinding shops and those with plastic mold machines can have electricity costs soar even higher. However, solar also presents other options for businesses that should be taken into account when determining the validity of a solar solution for the building.
Solar powered electric vehicle charging stations offer one such option. Shopping centers are a great candidate for charging stations. This offers a variety of results for the shopping center as a landlord and for all the tenants. To begin with, it would be a customer draw. More people would frequent the mall or shopping center as the owners of electric vehicles would be able to complete two separate time consuming tasks at once. When customers shop longer, businesses will increase revenue and that also leads to higher tenant retention for the landlord. In addition to the obvious benefits, the property owner can also generate revenue from the charging stations. The caveat is the charging stations will need to be Level 3 stations offering a faster charge as most customers will not be on site for the eight hours a full charge will take from a Level 1 charging station. Level 3 stations are naturally more expensive and the ROI will be longer, however beneficial the solution would be. Hotels and motels will also benefit from the client draw of installing a series of charging stations. Unlike shopping centers, however, theirs need not be Level 3 stations as most guests will be satisfied letting their cars charge overnight. Most auto manufacturers have already set hard deadlines for full conversion to electric vehicles making this conversation very relevant.
For a building owner with tenants, a solar solution offers more than the ability to offset the common area electricity charges of the facility. The property owner can also be the energy provider for the location’s tenants. By using the available space to create a solar solution to compensate for the aggregate of all the tenants’ electricity needs, the landlord, in essence, becomes the energy broker for the businesses. By doing so, the property owner has created an additional revenue stream. This can either be shared with the tenants or simply added to the bottom line. There is also software available to make what seems a very complicated process easier to manage. This solution is much easier to implement if the tenants have the electricity costs built into their monthly lease payments. However, even if the tenants have separate meters and pay directly to the power company, it is still worth the time to explore as an option for the building owner.
Aside from the obvious, another effect we have suffered during the pandemic has been the high number of businesses which have closed their doors. This has led to an abnormally high amount of available commercial space in every region of the country. By implementing the strategies listed above, the landlord can offer a much more competitive work environment for existing and potential tenants thereby reducing the risk of very expensive vacancies.
Finally, the property owner may simply lease the available space, (usually roof), to another company who wants to install a solar array. This means the property owner will not benefit from the potential tax breaks or other solar incentives. However, it does offer an option that will not include financing as the burden of the installation and maintenance is borne by the owner of the array. On the other hand, it is a simple revenue stream for a roof that beforehand was simply a liability.
What is outlined here is additional food for thought and a reminder for property owners that solar offers more than just the traditional solutions as have been historically understood.
It is highly recommended to have a conversation with a qualified solar provider to ensure you have access to the actual costs and savings associated with solar, in order to help you make the most qualified decision for the good of your business.