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Maximizing Power Production in Small Commercial Solar Projects

Posted by AllEarth Renewables on May 12, 2016 in Commercial Solar Systems, Solar System Issues and Considerations, Sizing a Solar System, Cost of Solar Systems, Selling Solar, Types of Solar, Energy Efficiency, Small Commercial Solar, Solar Industry, Power Production

-_Gary_Hall-_15-125-74_1.jpgWhen it comes to small commercial solar, return on investment is one of the key measures of a project's success. One of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck and meet your bottom line is reframing the way you think about the products and techniques used, and moving beyond the traditional dollar per watt measures. Thinking about production capacity, and your dollar per kilowatt-hour, will yield a much better picture of how your project will fare.

For the most part, the industry still focuses on upfront installation costs to assess the value of a project. The problem with this approach is that it simply represents the static capacity of a system, which can be misleading. Static capacity doesn't take into account important considerations such as siting, shading, variations in equipment used, and seasonality (the difference in the angle of the sun across the seasons). Dynamic power production is a much better measure, as this recognizes initial upfront cost as just one piece of the equation and understands the various factors that go into evaluating return on investment. This means a shift in focus from installed cost per watt to a more nuanced and realistic measure of cost per kilowatt-hour. By focusing on the performance on the system, and its energy output, the customer will get a more complete picture.

Cost per kilowatt-hour comes down to creating projects that maximize power production. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is choosing the right equipment--not all solar equipment is created equal when it comes to power production. Take your solar panels, for example. Choosing a high-efficiency panel manufacturer, such as SunPower, can go a long way to creating a project with a higher energy output. Smart panels designed to absorb more sunlight, add more strength, and eliminate cell failures will result in a more powerful project--and a higher ROI.

Similarly, your racking system is an important factor in determining a project's energy output. While fixed systems, both roof and ground, have lower upfront installation costs, they also have limitations. Because they only face one angle, they will only be delivering maximum production for a few hours each day, and their fixed nature can exacerbate problems presented by site constraints and seasonality, resulting in a greater variation in energy output. A system that is designed to follow the sun, like a dual-axis tracker, eliminates many of these issues. The impact of seasonality, time of day, shading, and weather can be significantly reduced due to the fact that the panels are always at an optimal angle to capture all of the day's solar potential, meaning that output can be up to 45% higher than a comparable fixed system.

Finally, project design plays a large role in determining the production (and the return on investment) of a small commercial solar project. Minimize shading as much as possible to ensure that you're not limiting the effectiveness of your installation. Choose open sites that don't have many trees, brushes, or other large objects--these obstructions can create shading issues, and will be costly to remove. It's also important to consider factors such as interconnect proximity and your installation process, as these can affect production and will ultimately impact your bottom line for the project.

Changing your frame of reference from cost per watt to cost per kilowatt-hour can be an adjustment, and there's much more to consider--these are only a few ways of maximizing your power production. Interested in gaining insight from industry experts on how to create small commercial projects with high energy outputs and high ROI? Register for our upcoming webinar on Maximizing Power Production in Small Commercial Projects to gain tips, tricks, and suggestions from those who understand dynamic power production best.

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