Climate Action

The Unexpected Benefits of Using Solar Power at Your Small Business

Running a business means drawing in clients or customers with an appealing atmosphere and values. While your goods or services are what customers are ultimately there for, the presence of solar panels could communicate your goals and values faster than any advertisement could. Installing solar panels can do far more for your business than providing clean, renewable energy.

  • Upfront Cost vs Long Term Savings

The biggest barrier of entry for solar power is the relatively large upfront cost. The average cost of a small scale commercial solar panel system is about $2 per watt, which typically amounts to $200,000 for installation across the entire company. Along with the infrastructure for battery storage for more complex solar panel systems, the upfront costs could be as high as $500,000 for small businesses.

Businesses may be hesitant to such an upfront investment or unable to afford large-scale installations at all. However, there are many financing options available for commercial solar installations. In the United States, power purchase agreements (PPAs) can significantly reduce the financial strain with the help of a third party. PPAs involve special purpose entities (SPE) which oversee the installation of solar equipment and the energy system operations for a time, gradually transitioning ownership back to the customer to reduce upfront costs.

The payback period of photovoltaic solar panels varies depending on several factors including installation scale, local climate, and energy consumption. With the variety of financing options available through PPAs and government incentives, solar installations see a payback period of three to five years. As photovoltaic solar cells have an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years, the financial benefits of solar panels would outweigh the upfront for decades of use.

  • Off the Grid

Reducing the reliance for power from the grid would greatly reduce utility costs. Commercial property owners typically reduce overall energy utility costs by 75% by installing solar panels, with an average monthly energy bill reduced from $1,950 to $500.

Energy independence can be one of the most attractive benefits of solar power for your business. Depending on the power consumption trends of your business, the volatility of the grid could interfere with day-to-day operations. For any small business, the amount of power production from small-scale solar installations can be considered small enough to be “behind the meter” generating power exclusively for on-site use.

Depending on the power usage trends of a small business, switching to solar and relying less on the grid for power would have major financial benefits. This in turn reduces the demand on the grid, reducing the amount of power generated from the top down typically from non-renewable sources like coal and natural gas.

  • Politics

Despite what some may believe, the benefits of solar power align with both major political viewpoints. The independence from electricity sourced from fossil fuels and innovation in renewable technologies are more appealing to some, while the economic benefits from reduced utility bills via energy independence align more with others.

With the cost of solar dropping over 60% in the last decade, adopting green energy for small businesses is an easy win. Across the political spectrum, business owners can acknowledge the benefits of comparatively cheap electricity for their job site.

The flexibility and varying benefits of solar energy benefits everyone, regardless of economic mindsets and political views. To condense the expanding economic benefits of solar power down to a right versus left issue is a gross oversimplification.

  • Optics

Shockingly, one of the biggest benefits solar panels can bring to your business is how clients or customers subconsciously view them. Depending on the installation of your business’ solar panels, they may or may not be easily visible from customers’ spaces. If a solar panel happens to be visible from outside your business, customers become accustomed to them, knowing how much your business values your utilities at a glance.

Creating signage for your business can be an easier way to bring awareness to solar installations. With inward and outward facing displays indicating your business is powered by solar energy, appealing signage can draw in and retain customers who value your business’ energy priorities.

Depending on the layout required for your installation, the solar panels themselves may not be visible from ground level. However, with eye-catching signage, you can bypass visibility problems with photos or diagrams. For instance, if solar panels are flat on your rooftops, aerial photos of your building or a diagram of the energy systems could improve customer awareness. Bright, appealing graphic designs describing your solar installation can be just as effective as the photovoltaic cells themselves.

The prevalence of solar panels at your business can silently communicate to your customers that you value the long-term benefits of green energy. For the more motivated client or consumer, it could be a conversation starter. They might ask questions such as “How much was that to put up?” or “How much are those saving you?” or “How do you keep the lights on at night with those?” that could lead to more enriching conversation. Engaging with your customers like this regularly will lead to more deals being made and more repeat customers.

Normalizing solar panels at businesses customers see everyday can change the public’s perception of solar panels in other aspects of their lives. When the everyday presence of solar panels becomes normalized, the benefits of their relatively high upfront cost may be more palatable, informing their investment choices and/or voting preferences towards lawmakers who back them. Observing solar panels in comfortable environments can increase social acceptance in broaders contexts, like utility-scale solar installations.

EARTHDAY.ORG’s campaign, Invest In Our Planet, encourages businesses to take the next step towards sustainability. Incorporating solar panels into your business’ infrastructure is a great investment into the future of not only your business, but the planet. Not only will it pay for itself in a few short years, but the visual stimuli for your customers will normalize the prevalence of solar panels and hopefully encourage customers to incorporate them in their home or business. 

Make the smart choice for your business and ask whether incorporating green energy into your utility solution makes sense. If you care about our planet’s future and energy cost savings, it certainly will.