Green Building, Roofing

Could Solar Pay for Your Next Facility Roof?

So, you’re facing the relatively high cost of replacing or restoring your facility’s aging roof. Is there any way a solar project could help with the cost? The answer is most certainly yes!

Like countless businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations across the country, you may have already taken specific steps to attain better energy efficiency and sustainability, such as installing an upgraded HVAC or lighting system. You may have done this because you’re under a certain amount of pressure to cut operational costs or you’re interested in lowering your organization’s carbon footprint. Solar power can be another one of those steps, and, happily, it may be possible to have that solar installation pay for your roofing needs.

Courtesy: Standard Solar

One of the critical aspects of going solar is that your contractor will provide you with a comprehensive job proposal. This will include an overview of your bills, a shading analysis (an examination of shading caused by surrounding objects or vegetation), detailed estimates of how much a solar system will save you, and a review of your facility’s electrical system. Additionally, part of the assessment can involve making recommendations about your roof and helping you understand your financing options in relation to a roof restoration or replacement.

It is possible to fold the cost of a roof restoration or replacement into the installation of a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) project. Solar financing companies are willing to pay for the roof and incorporate that cost into the project economics. A popular financing option for a solar system is the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), a contract in which a third party owns, operates, and maintains the system. At the same time, you purchase electricity from the company at a stable, discounted price. A solar financier can offer a PPA term up to 80% of the lifespan of a solar array and can include the cost of a roof restoration or replacement.

For example, for a recent roof restoration and solar project in New Jersey, the roof restoration cost was approximately $130,000. The customer preferred the option of incorporating the cost into its PPA, given that doing this would reduce the impact of the expense by only adding a penny per kilowatt-hour to the contracted price.

When installing a rooftop solar array, your roof must have the same longevity as the proposed solar system. Matching these two elements will ensure uninterrupted service for the life of the solar array (and roof). If this is ignored, the roof will fall short, and you will have to remove the solar system to replace the roof. Removing the system can potentially damage the solar panels and other fragile electronic components. Additionally, having to pay for the system removal, reinstallation, and lost energy will far exceed the roof restoration cost, which should be done in advance of the solar installation.

Some restoration companies offer a solar-specific system that provides a 25-year labor and material leak-free warranty and matches the PPA contract term. Typically, conventional roofing systems are designed for a 20-year life, so having the right roofing system is essential. Look to choose the most cost-effective and efficient kind of roof. For example, white roofs tend to be preferable to black roofs in hot climates because they stay cooler. A liquid applied membrane over an existing roof system is usually about a third of the cost of a conventional roof replacement. Additionally, certain solar systems may qualify for the 26% federal investment tax credit or state or project-type incentives.

Ultimately, it is quite possible to have a solar system that saves you money on both electricity costs and your much-needed roof work.

Daryl A. Pilon is Director of Business Development at Standard Solar, with a focus on commercial, industrial, educational, municipal, food processing, and agricultural markets throughout the U.S. With more than 35 years of experience in engineering, electrical applications, construction, and business development, he brings a wealth of experience to lead solar PV system development, as well as roof restoration. He can be reached at daryl.pilon@standardsolar.com.