The Future of the Commercial Solar Market


The Future of the Commercial Solar Mark

As fossil fuels deplete, solar energy becomes one of Earth's most important renewable energy sources. Solar energy is so abundant that more than 10,000 times the world's total energy use reaches the Earth continuously in the form of solar energy. The solar market allows us to use this energy in place of other natural resources to obtain a cleaner and more sustainable way of powering lights, heat, and more. 

The future of solar energy continues to look promising for the commercial solar market. As more businesses invest in clean electricity, be sure to consider these current solar market insights and learn how the industry is on the rise.

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What is Solar Energy

What Is Solar Energy?

Solar energy emanates from the sun and is then converted into electric or thermal energy sources. Solar energy is harnessed using three technologies:

  • Solar heating and cooling:  Uses the sun's heat to generate water and space heat.
  • Photovoltaics:  Used to generate electricity directly from the sun's light. 
  • Concentrating solar power:  Uses the sun's heat to power turbines that traditionally generate electricity.

The energy collected can then be used to generate electricity, providing light and heat to create comfortable interior spaces, heating water for industrial, commercial, and residential uses, and more. The sun already powers many aspects of our planet, and solar energy allows us to take advantage of that natural energy to power our additional needs.

The Importance of Solar Energy

The Importance of Solar Energy in the Future

Solar energy has been an option for residential, commercial, and industrial properties for years now, though its take-off was slow in the early years. In recent years, the importance of solar energy has grown, and in the coming future, it will continue to grow in popularity and importance. As solar energy technologies continue to develop, grow and become more accessible, the importance of solar energy will be evident in a few of the following ways.

Solar Is a Renewable Resource

Solar energy is a highly reliable energy source. Unlike other fossil fuels that will eventually run out, we can harness as much sunlight as we want, and it will never run out. Because solar energy is a renewable resource, we can rely on it to power homes, businesses, and more for a long time after traditional energy sources deplete.  

Solar Energy Is Cost-Effective

Fossil fuels are expensive, both to harvest and use. Solar energy is significantly more cost-effective because it costs nothing to receive sunlight. Some may argue that solar panels or solar electrical systems are costly, though it's important to remember that these only have a one-time installation cost. While traditional electricity requires consistent and expensive payments, solar energy technologies are long-term, cost-effective investments that will save business owners money over time. 

Solar Is Good for the Environment

Solar energy is beneficial for the environment because it works with natural resources instead of harming them or using nonrenewable resources as conventional electricity does. Solar energy is highly beneficial for the environment, as it avoids the use of fossil fuels, won't contribute to global warming, and doesn't pollute the atmosphere or water sources. Solar energy can play a powerful role in fighting climate change for the planet's future. 

Solar Creates Energy Independence

Conventional electricity means everyone is on a power grid. Power grids leave businesses susceptible to price fluctuations, especially in big cities, and common outages in bad weather. Power grids are unreliable, and repairs to the grid as a whole can take away valuable time from businesses that rely on electricity. With solar energy, more businesses can operate independently of the power grid in the future, which could mean staying open while other businesses wait for power to come back on.

Solar Market Trends and the Future of the Solar Market

The solar industry has seen rapid growth in the last couple of years. Almost half of all energy-generating projects are in the solar industry, making it the fastest-growing method of renewable energy since 2019. Here are a few ways that the solar industry has been growing and is expected to continue growing in the future.

Increased Number of Installs

When looking at the number of solar installs in recent years, it's no surprise that solar installs are on the rise. Compared to 2020, the first quarter of 2021 saw a record-breaking 46% increase in the number of solar installations. The solar industry, like most others, saw a decline throughout 2020. Since then, installations have seen a rise as delayed projects were fast-tracked and new projects continue to bounce back. As renewable energy sources continue to outpace fossil fuels, installs will continue to increase in size and number.

Dropping Prices

Prices Are Dropping

Part of the reason installs are on the rise is because the price of solar technology has been dropping. At the beginning of the industry, the prices were out of reach for many people. However, the cost to install solar technology has dropped 70% since 2010, making the price of installation the lowest thus far. Lower prices have allowed new markets across the United States to implement solar technologies. With prices reaching a new low, solar energy will become more accessible for many people and businesses.

Installations aren't the only thing to see lower prices — solar batteries have recently become more affordable as well. While solar power is a renewable resource, it can still be collected and stored using batteries. Solar batteries can be used for on-demand power, allowing businesses to store power and reduce wasteful electricity production. As solar energy advances, batteries become more affordable, flexible, and efficient. 

Increased Efficiency

Like any other form of technology, solar panels increase in efficiency from year to year. Over the past year or two, solar panels have increased in efficiency by up to 5%. While this may sound like a slight increase, this increase can significantly increase a business's return on investment (ROI), helping to repay the installation cost sooner than before. Most solar panels cover their installment costs within two years of operation. With this increase in efficiency ratings, it's possible to pay back the costs in less than a year and a half. 

Increased efficiency also means higher power ratings. Many standard solar panels can now produce over 350 watts of power. As efficiency continues to improve in the future, power ratings will also increase. Higher power ratings will allow more large-scale businesses and industrial applications to run off of fewer panels.

Commercial Solar Growth

Solar energy allows commercial businesses to make their operations sustainable using clean energy. Thanks to investment tax credit (ITC) incentives and the push for more sustainable businesses, solar energy in commercial applications is rising. The commercial solar segment grew 19% in the first quarter of 2020 alone, with more growth expected in the future. Commercial solar power will likely stay on the rise in the coming years, especially as more industry aspects continue to grow.

Economic Growth

Economic Growth

While the future of solar energy looks promising for business owners looking to install solar technologies, the growing solar market will benefit more than just those generating green energy. As the solar industry's future continues to project growth, more and more jobs become available. Despite the pandemic, the solar industry employed over 230,000 employees across the United States in 2020. As the industry continues to bounce back and grow, more jobs will continue to become available. 

With President Biden's goal for clean electricity, the industry has support and initiative to keep growing. To reach his 100% clean electricity goal, more than 900,000 industry positions will need to be by 2035. With competitive wages, jobs in every state, and new installation records, the solar industry is well on its way to a bright future.

Benefits of Incorporating Solar Energy Into Businesses

Incorporating solar energy into businesses is extremely beneficial, both for the business and the environment. Businesses are often looking for ways to lower costs and make improvements. Solar energy allows any business owner to accomplish both. Consider these ways solar energy can benefit business owners.

Potential Savings

Potential Savings

Solar energy has the potential to reduce electricity costs significantly. As electric rates rise, businesses will ultimately generate their own electricity instead of paying for conventional electricity. Depending on the size of the solar grid and commercial operation, generating electricity and storing excess solar energy is much more cost-effective than paying monthly electric rates and risking the downfalls of being on the main power grid. 

Businesses with solar panels can significantly reduce their electric bills and cost of operation. Powering heat, lights, and other electrical operations with solar energy will help reduce the cost of energy. Even if businesses choose to power only part of their operations using solar energy, they'll still save substantially on monthly electric bills. 

Additionally, there is potential for tax savings. Many state and local tax collectors offer tax credits or deductions on new solar panel installations. These incentives are in place to encourage businesses to invest in solar energy and transition to green business operations. The solar ITC offers a 26% tax credit for commercial businesses that invest in solar energy before 2023 — after that, the incentive begins to phase down, which is a sign to take advantage of the ITC while you can. 

Quick Pay Back

As we mentioned earlier, solar technologies often seem like a significant upfront cost for many businesses. The important things to keep in mind here are that prices are at an all-time low and solar panels have a quick pay-back rate. With low upfront costs and ITC incentives, solar panels can cover their cost within a couple of years. Additionally, depending on how a business uses their panels, they could see a faster ROI because of how they're used. 

For example, using VPS parking structures covered with solar panels can help businesses earn a faster ROI. Businesses can charge extra for customers and patrons to park under the solar panel structures with covered parking spaces. Doing so will help them quickly earn back the cost of their investment and may even help them earn some extra revenue. 

Low Maintenance

Another benefit of generating solar energy is that the necessary equipment generally requires little maintenance. Solar structures have no moving parts, so solar panels typically only require occasional cleaning to ensure they're reaching full capacity. Durable structures like solar hail protection systems are designed to withstand severe weather while also protecting any parking lots or walkways underneath. 

With durable, low-maintenance solar structures, businesses can avoid the added task of rearranging employees and resources to keep the solar panels in operation. While some routine maintenance is recommended to ensure the structures last as long as intended, businesses can avoid a massive maintenance undertaking. 

Multiple Ways to Install Solar Panels

Multiple Ways to Install Panels

Every business is different. While one solar energy solution will work for car dealerships, another may work more effectively for a restaurant. There are several ways solar panels can be installed on a commercial property, depending on available space, desired aesthetic and additional function. Here are a few examples of ways solar panels can be installed:

  • On a commercial roof:  Solar panels are often installed on a property's roof, especially when space is limited. Roof installations are the perfect way to take advantage of existing space that's likely not being used otherwise. This option can work especially well for large commercial buildings or industrial-sized plants.
  • As canopies:  Solar panels can also be installed on top of canopies and parking structures. This method provides multiple purposes — they provide space for the solar panels to lie undisturbed and provide coverage for parking lots and assets like cars and vans. Solar parking structures are especially beneficial in locations prone to severe weather like hail that can cause extreme damage to parking lots and cars. 
  • As separate structures:  If a commercial property has additional unused space like a field or extra lot, solar structures can be installed as their own structures, where they stand in rows. This is most common on solar farms, though it is viable for commercial properties with extra space. 

Because each business will have a different amount of available space, a different number of solar panels, and different solar needs, it's essential to consider where the panels will go and how the structures can be used to the business's advantage. 

Where to Use Solar Parking Structures

Where to Use Solar Canopies and Parking Structures

Rooftop and independent solar structures are often a person's first thoughts when solar panels are mentioned. While these options can work well for other applications, solar parking structures can work effectively for numerous types of businesses and industries. Consider how solar canopies and parking structures can be integrated into these types of businesses:

  • Car dealerships:  Solar parking structures create the perfect area to display fancy, expensive cars or create charging stations for electric cars on the lot. Dealerships can become leaders in energy-saving technologies while simultaneously increasing the value of a protected fleet of cars
  • Transportation terminals:  Transportation terminals like those at train stations,  airports , sports facilities, car rental facilities, parking garages, and more can benefit from solar-covered parking structures. These locations typically have large numbers of vehicles, so parking structures can protect both the business's assets and provide convenience for the customers.
  • Municipalities:  Municipalities in towns and cities can use solar parking structures in government and public parking areas to generate electricity. For example, bus or shuttle stops and parking garages are great areas to implement solar technology. This will be an appealing option for taxpayers looking for options for sustainable energy. 
  • Hotels and hospitals:  Hotels often have covered entryways or parking areas, both of which are perfect options for solar canopies or parking structures, so guests have the added convenience while the hotel saves money on electricity. Similarly, hospitals need protected areas to house their fleet, and solar parking structures can provide the necessary coverage while also helping to reduce operating costs.
  • Retail, restaurants, and other businesses:  Any other business like restaurants, stores, outlets, and retail locations can use solar parking structures and canopies to protect employee or customer parking lots while utilizing an opportunity to use green resources and take a step towards sustainability. 

Because VPS solar parking structures are also intended to protect a business's assets from hail, they're best suited for businesses with parking lots full of vehicles or equipment that need to be covered or outdoor areas and walkways that customers and people frequently travel. 

VPS Design and Build Process

Our Comprehensive Design and Build Process

At VPS, our goal is to provide world-class products and solutions for our clients. Our team partners with clients to create their desired parking structure from design through construction. Here's a closer look at how VPS works with our clients to create effective and innovative hail protection and parking structures:

  1. Conceptual design:  Our team develops potential renderings using our space optimization and design skills during conceptual design. With extensive knowledge and familiarity with regulations and requirements, we can begin conceptualizing potential solutions from the get-go. 
  2. Design and engineering:  During the second stage in our process, the VPS Design and Engineering Department models the structure using 3D CAD. Detailed design drawings, measurements, and engineering calculations are included so the client can review them for approval before taking the next steps. During the design step, we take the time to ensure the structures we design are in accordance with any applicable building codes.
  3. Project management:  Our well-versed project managers fast-track the design-build process by overlapping design, fabrication, and construction in a compressed schedule to help maximize efficiency and reduce costs for our clients. The VPS project managers are prepared to fast-track client projects with years of expertise.
  4. Steel fabrication:  At our state-of-the-art fabrication facility, our steel fabrication professionals will meet or exceed the highest steel standards with our innovative, durable, and cost-effective steel structures. 
  5. Fabric fabrication:  Keeping our client's needs and desires in mind, we use a high-density polyethylene mesh and other fabrics like PVC and PTFE. These fabrics help us provide structures that block harmful UV rays and protect against hail and severe weather. 
  6. Construction:  Finally, the VPS construction management team handles installation and construction without disrupting the client's business. Our team handles everything from surveying and drilling to fabric installation and finishing. 

Our design-build process enables us to provide a high level of service using comprehensive resources. Because of this, VPS can build valuable partnerships and deliver innovative solutions for a wide range of industries worldwide. 

Contact VPS for Solar Panel Covered Parking

Contact VPS for Solar Panel Covered Parking Structures

Businesses looking to begin taking steps towards a green future should consider how investing in solar structures can benefit their business, especially as tax credits are available and the industry continues to boom. Businesses may feel hesitant to implement solar panels in areas prone to hail and frequent bad weather. With VPS solar panel-covered parking structures, businesses can benefit from solar energy while protecting their assets and property from severe weather. 

Our durable solutions are designed to withstand hail, so hail-prone locations around the world can still integrate solar energy into their everyday business operations. Contact one of our experts today to learn more about VPS products, markets, solutions, and how you can go green with VPS.