Solar deployment in the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector has recently undergone significant maturation in component procurement and beyond. Along with more flexible financing options, this has led to a surge in corporate solar adoption as installed capacity doubled between 2016 and 2018, according to the most recent Solar Energy Industries Association’s “Solar Means Business” report. This growth allows the C&I sector to generate more than 10.7 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity, the equivalent of powering 1.4 million homes.
However, unlike residential and utility-scale solar deployment, the C&I sector has its own unique obstacles and pain points. As this sector continues to grow, here are three things C&I EPCs and developers need to know about solar procurement:
Building a solar PV system by procuring components from multiple suppliers can be a costly and time-consuming process. On top of this, installation and interconnection of a piecemeal system can lead to component incompatibility and poor system performance. Further, demand for Tier 1 quality modules will only continue to increase, which can potentially create delays during procurement.
Yet, despite these obstacles, many EPCs and smaller developers have traditionally relied on distributors and third-party suppliers for their solar equipment procurement needs.
What many EPCs might not know, though, is that top tier module manufacturers can also provide a variety of inverters, racking and tracker systems. Going this route can streamline procurement and help keep projects on schedule while ensuring seamless integration of PV modules and inverters, along with versatile racking. This approach to supply chain management can often also help better match module type and sizes with an EPCs or developer’s original design. Among the options available from top tier manufacturers are increasingly bifacial modules.
It makes sense for businesses and organizations to take advantage of any available space to lower energy costs. All of these places have ample unused rooftop space, land and parking lot canopies. While C&I operations have plenty of space, it’s not always easy making the most of it for solar PV installations.
The rooftops of factories and office buildings typically have HVAC equipment, peculiar shapes, and the potential of shading from other buildings or trees. Further, two buildings having the same exact rooftop layout is not that common. These challenges also apply to ground-mounted systems, as the shape and size of each individual business or organization’s property parcel differs greatly.
This means EPCs and developers will have a range of specific requirements necessitating custom scopes for their C&I customers/offtakers. In each case, though, it’s imperative that the project developers maximize the available space to ensure the largest solar harvest possible, whether with fixed-tilt ground, canopy or rooftop mounting. Additionally, string inverters on a rooftop system can be strategically placed to increase the number of modules, thereby boosting energy generation.
Since its inception, the solar industry has been innovative and forward-thinking, with cutting-edge technology and solutions hitting the market every year. This isn’t going to change anytime soon.
Due to this never-ending evolution, good EPCs and developers no doubt understand the importance of quickly adapting to changes in this volatile environment.
One of the major changes currently impacting C&I EPCs and developers is the rise of developing long-term relationships with solar solution providers that offer complementary services, such as one-stop offerings that include having a dedicated C&I representative.
Ultimately, it’s important for EPCs and developers to factor in all three of these aspects as early as possible in their project development process.
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