Energy Management and Lighting, Green Building, Sustainability/Business Continuity

How to Choose the Right Renewable Energy System for Your Facility

With the growing adoption of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and bioenergy, many industrial and commercial facilities managers are looking to add renewables to offset fossil fuel use, reduce energy costs, and meet sustainability goals.

However, choosing the right renewable energy system requires careful evaluation of a facility’s unique energy needs, siting, costs, and regulatory requirements. Not all renewables make sense for every facility, but they are beneficial for improving the sustainability factor of your facility. By taking the time to match the renewable resource and technology to your facility’s needs and constraints, you can feel confident investing in the right system to maximize economic and sustainability benefits. 

Overview of Main Renewable Energy Options

There are several mature renewable energy technologies to evaluate for industrial and commercial facilities:

Solar Photovoltaics (PV)

  • Converts sunlight directly into electricity through panels/modules
  • Can be roof-mounted, ground-mounted, or on carports/parking garages
  • Scalable and modular to meet needs; from a few kilowatts to multi-megawatt arrays
  • Best suited for facilities with large flat roofs or open land
  • Offsets daytime electricity consumption

Wind Turbines

  • Generate electricity from kinetic energy of wind turning blades on a rotor
  • Require large open spaces with strong wind resources
  • Turbines come in sizes from a few kilowatts to multi-megawatt utility-scale
  • Can be sited onshore or offshore
  • Provides electricity generation at all hours with sufficient wind


  • Uses organic matter like wood, crops, or waste as fuel for energy
  • Biofuels can replace fossil fuels for heating, cooling, and power
  • Technologies include anaerobic digesters, biomass boilers, and biogas systems
  • Fuel supply logistics are critical
  • Can provide steam, heating, and electricity

When evaluating these options, consider the available renewable resources (solar radiation, wind, biomass feedstock), space constraints, capital costs, operating costs, emissions impacts, and the facility’s needs and load profiles. The optimal technology depends on aligning the renewable generation system with your specific facility’s characteristics and goals.

Examples of Renewable Energy Options by Industry

The optimal renewable energy technology for a facility depends significantly on its industry and specific energy needs. Here are a few key examples:

Manufacturing facilities like factories and processing plants often have large, consistent daytime energy loads that align well with solar PV generation. Installing solar arrays on expansive rooftops and adjacent ground areas can offset a major portion of the plant’s electricity usage. Solar thermal systems or geothermal heat pumps can also meet process heating and cooling needs in an energy-efficient, renewable manner. Many leading manufacturing companies such as Tesla already use solar at their production centers to reduce emissions and energy costs.

For agriculture, biomass energy systems that utilize farm residue and waste as fuel provide a beneficial distributed energy option. In countries like the U.S., Brazil, and India, anaerobic digesters are being used on farms to capture methane from animal manure to generate electricity. Direct combustion of agricultural byproducts such as sugarcane bagasse, rice husks, and wood chips in boilers can provide useful heat and power. When implemented sustainably, bioenergy allows farms to be more self-sufficient while also managing agricultural waste streams.

Warehouses and distribution centers often make ideal sites for solar PV systems. Their large, flat rooftops provide ample space for roof-mounted solar panels to generate clean electricity to meet daytime warehouse loads like lighting and HVAC. Additional solar capacity can be achieved through ground-mounted arrays in parking lots or adjacent open land. Battery storage systems coupled with the solar panels allow warehouses to reduce expensive demand charges from peaking electricity draws. 

Assessing Your Facility’s Energy Needs

Before investing in any renewable energy project, you need to gain a detailed understanding of your facility’s energy consumption patterns and needs. This helps determine the size and type of renewable system that can offset the maximum amount of conventional energy use. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • What is your annual electricity consumption, both total usage and peak demand? Examine utility bills to analyze monthly and hourly consumption.
  • What are your major uses of electricity, such as lighting, HVAC, machinery, or computing? Look at loads by day and night.
  • Do you have thermal energy needs for heating, cooling, or steam? Consider seasonal variations.
  • What are possible future expansions or increased energy needs? Factor in expected growth.
  • Are there opportunities to implement energy efficiency measures first to reduce energy waste before adding renewables? Perform an energy audit.
  • Do you need an emergency backup power system, or grid independence? This may require energy storage.
  • What are your renewable energy goals? Motivations may be sustainability, branding, costs, or resilience.

Understanding the facility’s current and projected energy needs, as well as what is driving the interest in renewables, is essential for choosing the optimal system for your site. 

Key Factors to Consider

When determining which renewable energy technology is best suited for your facility, there are several important considerations to evaluate.

First, assess the physical space and siting requirements of potential renewable setups. Solar PV arrays need ample rooftop or ground area free of shading, while wind turbines require large open spaces and setback distances from buildings and property lines. Also consider zoning laws, community concerns, and environmental impacts like wildlife habitats.

It’s also important to analyze how the facility’s energy needs and load profiles align with the production of the renewables system, so you can choose the best solution. Solar PV is best matched to daytime electricity loads, whereas bioenergy can provide thermal energy in addition to power. Consider adding energy storage if the renewable system often generates excess energy. You may want to combine systems to suit the demands of your facility. 

Investigate the relevant incentives, policies, and regulations around renewables in your area. These include tax credits, renewable energy certificates, net metering rules, interconnection requirements, and permitting. Account for these in the financial analysis.

Lastly, study the grid interconnection process and potential upgrade costs. Connecting your renewable technology to the utility distribution system can require new distribution lines, transformers, or transfer trip capabilities. Factor these costs into the project budget. Doing thorough due diligence on all these factors will inform your selection and ensure you’re investing in the optimal solution for your commercial or industrial facility.

Choosing an effective renewable energy system hinges on matching the technology with your facility’s specific energy needs, spatial constraints, and budget. While solar PV, wind turbines, and bioenergy offer clean generation options, it’s essential to base your selection on a thorough analysis of factors such as space, climate, consumption patterns, local incentives, interconnection nuances, and overall costs.

Chester Avey has over a decade of experience in business growth management and cybersecurity. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with other like-minded professionals through his writing. You can connect with Chester by following him on Twitter @ChesterAvey

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