Category Archives: Commercial

What to Consider When Designing a Solar Ready Building

What to consider when designing a solar ready building

Why Design Solar-Ready Buildings?

Solar-ready buildings allow for future solar installations without the need for expensive adjustments and retrofits. Many existing buildings aren’t a good fit for rooftop solar due to orientation, roof size, shading or other factors. It can be incredibly expensive, or even impossible, to retrofit these buildings in a way that makes solar viable. Even new buildings may need substantial improvements to capitalize on their solar potential. 

This can be avoided by including solar production as a design criteria in the building plan, not adding it after the fact. A few simple changes to the design of a building can make adding solar more predictable and less expensive. 

Building orientation, roof layout, space for PV equipment and knowledge of local zoning and regulatory requirements are all important factors to address. NREL has published two detailed reports here and here detailing the specific technical considerations, which we’ll summarize below. 

Building Orientation & Shading

Anywhere north of the equator, PV systems perform best when facing due south. With this in mind, sloped roofs will work best with one south facing side. While flat roofs are more straightforward, they are still susceptible to shading from nearby buildings and trees. Even small amounts of shading can decrease solar production, so finding a clear area for the solar array is crucial. 

Roof Layout

A contiguous rectangle of solar panels is the most efficient layout, maximizing the system size and reducing load on the roof. A building must have enough flat, unobstructed roof space to accommodate this. With today’s current solar technology, we typically estimate that 10,000 square feet of unobstructed roof space can fit a 126kW solar array (which would produce around 148,600kWh here in Minnesota). For example, take a look at these office and multi-family residential projects. 

Plumbing & exhaust vents, chimneys and other rooftop equipment can interfere with the placement of a solar array. These obstructions should be minimized when possible, and clustered together on the north side of the roof to save space. A good rule of thumb is to place an obstruction twice as far away from the array as the obstruction is tall, to avoid any shading. 

A ballasted solar array can add between 3 to 10 pounds per square foot of load to a building’s roof. The ballast is needed to counteract potential wind uplift. This additional weight should be accounted for when determining the roof’s load capacity. This is another reason that it’s helpful to cluster your rooftop units and other obstructions together in a spot away from the solar array. Having to work around those elements will change the layout of the system, and increase the load on that particular area of the roof. 

The color and material of the roof can also impact solar performance. White TPO membrane roofs, which provide increased reflectivity, can boost solar energy production up to 15% when bifacial modules are used.  

Your roof is a long-term investment and maintaining the existing warranty is key. Before selecting a roof material and manufacturer, it’s good to look into what is required to install solar on top of that membrane and how the warranty will be maintained. Most, if not all roof manufacturers have a process in place to retain the roof warranty after a solar installation, but the requirements (and associated costs) can vary widely. 

Electrical Requirements

Designing the building’s main electrical panel to accommodate solar without utility upgrades will also make interconnection easier. A good rule of thumb is to allow for 100 amps of electrical gear for every 100kw of solar. So a 1MW rooftop solar array would require the ability to connect a 1,000 amp service to the electrical gear, via a disconnect or breaker integrated into the gear. 

Identifying where the inverters and other solar electrical equipment will be located (on the roof or near the main electrical panel) should be part of the building design process. Ensure that adequate space is left at whichever location is chosen, and there is easy access for future maintenance. We recommend leaving 15 linear feet available for new solar equipment.   

Zoning, Permitting & Policy

Zoning laws, permitting requirements and their potential impact should be understood during the building planning process. These rules can cover the potential height of new neighboring buildings, how close a solar array can be to the edge of the roof or if there are historic preservation protections in place. 

Depending on the location of the building, there may be system size limits or interconnection restrictions that impact the solar system design. For example, in Xcel Energy territory in Minnesota, solar systems can be net metered up to 120% of a building’s energy usage or 1MW, whichever is reached first. Most other utilities in Minnesota only allow net metering up to 40kW. Similarly, knowing which federal, state and utility incentives are available will help maximize the solar project’s positive financial impact. 

Let’s Talk About Solar-Ready Buildings

Overall, there is a lot to consider when designing a solar-ready building, but the long term benefits are more than worth the extra planning. Impact Power Solutions has been helping organizations implement solar projects for over 30 years. If you’re interested in learning more about designing a solar-ready building, or want to see how solar can work for your organization, reach out to us today! 

How Solar Can Help Your Company Achieve Corporate Sustainability Goals

Many companies are turning to solar to achieve their corporate sustainability goals in response to shifting external factors, investor attitudes, and stakeholder preferences. With interest in corporate solar surging, we wanted to highlight recent examples of those external factors, show how solar can help, and illustrate how solar has helped our clients and collaborators achieve their goals. 

What Is Corporate Sustainability?

As the Ivey Business Journal puts it, “Corporate sustainability recognizes that corporate growth and profitability are important, it also requires the corporation to pursue societal goals, specifically those relating to sustainable development — environmental protection, social justice and equity, and economic development.”

Unfortunately, many companies struggle to gauge the effectiveness of their programs. A recent survey of both public and private companies revealed that while 81% of respondents’ companies have formal programs in place, only 50% of those respondents believe their company performs effectively. Fortunately, solar can help companies produce substantial, measurable results for their corporate sustainability goals. 

Environmental Protection 

A recent United Nations report, approved by 195 governments and based on 14,000 studies, confirms that humans are responsible for climate change. While the results are unsettling, there is still hope to achieve the best outcome with a coordinated effort and swift policy change. Since solar energy systems do not produce air pollution or greenhouse gases, they can drastically reduce your organization’s carbon footprint and are also an impactful way to advance your building’s green credentials. While your company may not influence policy, it can still take part in the coordinated effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Take The Vomela Companies’ on-site solar array as a recent example. The company is projected to offset nearly 36,000 tons of CO2 over the next 30 years, which will make a significant and positive environmental impact. That’s the equivalent to adding 44,000 acres of trees to our forests. Additionally, the company achieved the sustainable green printing certification by pairing solar with other environmentally conscious practices.

 

The Vomela Companies Rooftop Solar Array  An Aerial View of The Vomela Companies’ rooftop solar array in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Social Justice and Equity 

The senate recently passed the $1 trillion infrastructure plan, allocating $36 billion in investment to fight climate change. In the proposal it states that, “the plan prioritizes addressing long-standing and persistent racial injustice. The plan targets 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities.” 

According to the IEA, solar energy has surpassed all other forms of energy as the most affordable electricity source in the world. Despite this, disadvantaged communities have less access to solar energy and its benefits compared to their counterparts. As outlined by the Scientific American, ”Racial and ethnic minorities have less access to solar power, regardless of income, highlighting the need for environmental justice.” Providing these communities with access to cheap, clean energy is an actionable way for organizations to take part in both social and environmental change.  

Look at Shiloh Temple’s rooftop community solar project as a recent example. Faith groups, businesses, and organizations across North Minneapolis banded together to create positive change. While other solar gardens are being developed to allow large corporations or municipal governments to subscribe, this garden demonstrates a new model by placing clean energy in a low-income community of color, creating green jobs for local residents, and ensuring access to community solar. 

 

Community members participating in Shiloh Temple's ribbon cutting eventCommunity members participating in Shiloh Temple’s ribbon cutting event.

Economic Development

In a recent statement by SEC chairman Gary Gensler, it was announced that plans are in development for mandatory climate reporting by the end of the year, signaling publicly traded organizations to be prepared for addressing environmental, social, and governance issues. Larry Fink’s 2021 annual BlackRock CEO letter said it best. “There is no company whose business model won’t be profoundly affected by the transition to a net zero economy.” 

Jobs in the solar industry are growing 17 times faster than the US economy and 90% of newly installed electric capacity was from renewable sources in 2020. Solar installer has been consistently ranked as one of the fastest growing jobs in the US in the past 5 years, according to the SEIA. Companies that meet their energy needs with rooftop solar are supporting economic development through manufacturing, installation, and more. Opportunities for companies to support economic development with solar are not limited to rooftop installations, either. Sourcing energy from community solar gardens provides economic support to rural communities, while giving farmers and landowners a valuable opportunity to diversify income streams. 

In a recent collaboration with Summit Academy, Target Corporation, and the City of Minneapolis, IPS led a workshop with recent Summit Academy grads and solar career hopefuls to help prepare them for NABCEP certification, the most well established certification in the renewable energy field. The IPS team shared their solar industry knowledge, the students received real world experience, and Target Corporation reinforced their commitment to renewable energy by supporting future renewable energy leaders.

 

Recent Summit Academy Grads, IPS team members, and Target representatives

Recent Summit Academy grads, Target representatives, and IPS team members.

Consider Solar for Accomplishing Your Company’s Corporate Sustainability Goals.  

If your company is looking for practical ways to achieve its corporate sustainability goals, we encourage you to evaluate solar. In addition to drastically reducing energy costs and carbon emissions, solar can compliment multiple company initiatives. Interested in learning more about what solar would look like for your company? Request a quote to see if solar is right for you! We’ve been happy to learn about your energy needs, educate inquirers, and demonstrate Solar’s payback for over 30 years.

2021 Top Solar Contractors: Our 10th Year

What is the 2021 Top Solar Contractor’s List?

Curated by Solar Power World, the Top Solar Contractors list is developed each year to honor the work of solar installers in the United States. Solar firms in the utility, commercial and residential markets are ranked by number of kilowatts installed in the previous year. Companies are grouped and listed by specific service, markets and states.  Solar Power World has recognized our installation success by ranking Impact Power Solutions at No. 13 on the 2021 Top Solar Developers list.

From the Curators of the 2021 Top Solar Contractor’s List

“Not even COVID-19 closures and slowdowns could prevent the solar industry from installing fantastic numbers last year,” said Kelly Pickerel, editor in chief of Solar Power World. “The Solar Power World team is so glad to recognize over 400 companies on the 2021 Top Solar Contractors list that not only survived a pandemic but thrived in spite of it.”

A Year to Remember

The U.S. solar industry grew 43% in last year, installing more solar panels on homes, businesses and across the country than any other year on record. The residential market saw an 11% increase, which is remarkable considering the difficulties of maneuvering home solar projects through pandemic precautions.

The federal government passed a two-year extension on the solar investment tax credit (ITC) at the end of 2020, which will further accelerate solar adoption across all market segments. After installing 19.2 GW in 2020, research firm Wood Mackenzie expects the U.S. solar market to quadruple by 2030.

Regardless of the turbulence faced last year, solar energy has remained effective in combating greenhouse gas emissions as an alternative to fossil fuels, and will continue to aid in efforts for economic recovery

Our Take On Being A Top Solar Contractor

When asked why we keep coming back to the top solar contractors list, Chief Development Officer Eric Pasi said “In the beginning it leant a lot of credibility to our small business, and still does today. It’s also a way to push our team to new heights, trying to beat last year’s statistics and keep growing, which we’ve been able to do.” 

We’re honored to be recognized as a Solar Power World top solar contractor. In the 30 years since our founding, we have never overcome challenges like the ones faced this year. We extend our deepest thanks to our employees, clients, and community for making the installation of 34,618 kilowatts of solar capacity possible, and for the positive impact we’ve made on the environment together. 

If you’re curious to see what solar would look like for your organization, feel free to reach out via email at info@ips-solar.com, contact us, or request a quote to learn more. 

The Infrastructure Plan: What it Means for Solar and Businesses

What Is the Infrastructure Plan?

The infrastructure plan, or the American Jobs Plan is a $2 trillion proposal from the Biden administration that aims to address the climate crisis while out-competing China. If enacted, the plan would be the largest government investment on record, surpassing President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system. 

The Infrastructure Plan Focuses on:

  • Overhauling roads and bridges.
  • Electric vehicle charging stations and incentivized electric vehicle purchases.
  • Retrofitting homes for affordable energy efficiency.
  • Improvements to the US electric grid.
  • Research and development to position the US as a leader in clean energy.
  • Achieving 100% carbon free energy by 2035.
  • Equity and workforce development.

What it Means for Solar 

In short, expect to see solar doing more of what it’s great at. The plan aims to ‘spur jobs that modernize power generation and deliver clean electricity,’ calling for rapid deployment of solar, wind, and storage. The plan’s focus on energy efficiency is likely to benefit the solar industry, as the two work well together. Speaking of working well together, solar is complementary to EV charging stations, and likely to play a role in the plan’s focus on electrifying transportation. Solar can strengthen the electric grid, and solar industry leaders are already focusing on equity and workforce development. While achieving 100% carbon free energy by 2035 is no easy task, solar is well positioned to be a major contributor as the world’s most affordable energy source, and create jobs even faster.

What it Means For Businesses

The plan focuses on ‘Creating a national network of small business Incubators and innovation hubs,’ providing business owners access to credit, capital and R & D dollars. It includes funding to support entrepreneurial growth in communities of color, and will partner with rural and tribal communities to create jobs and support economic growth. While the plan includes a corporate tax rate increase from 21% to 28%, that is lowered from its prior rate of 35% in 2017. Fortunately for business owners and the solar industry, a 10 year extension of the solar tax credit would be enacted, allowing plenty of time to save 26% on a newly installed solar array.

IPS is happy to share our expertise on available solar incentives. We’ve helped businesses save as much as possible with solar for over 30 years. Interested in learning more? Reach out for a free solar analysis today.

Meyers Printing Goes Solar

 

On October 16th Meyers unveiled their new solar array at their headquarters in Minneapolis, MN in partnership with Impact Power Solutions (IPS). Since 1949, Meyers has been known for creating innovative print materials to support retail marketing. Meyers recently announced that they’re committed to obtaining all electricity from carbon-free sources by the end of 2021 to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. 

Environmental Impact

The 128-panel array will produce roughly 50 kWh per year, enough to power 5 average Minnesota homes. Over the next 30 years, the solar panel system will offset nearly 1,400 tons of CO2, equivalent to the carbon sequestered by roughly 1600 acres of trees.

System Information

  • 128 Panels
  • 48.64 kW System Size
  • 89,465 pounds of Co2 Offset Per Year
  • 57,395 kWh of electricity Generated Per Year
  • View More

“Companies are often forced to choose between doing the right thing for sustainability and offering cost-effective solutions. We realized this could be done so efficiently that it might even lower our long-term costs. As a result, our customers won’t see any price increases as we move ahead with this plan.” – Chris Dillon, President, Meyers

Why Did Meyers Choose Solar Energy?

Making the decision to move forward with a commercial solar array isn’t always an easy one, but for Meyers, the decision was made clear by scientific consensus and their initiatives for sustainability. 

“Brands and retailers are more focused on sustainability than ever before. Sustainability has become a mantra that drives consumer behavior. And, we’re proud to serve customers and partners that are similarly committed to safeguarding our collective future by heeding the scientific community’s warnings and calls to action. This means everything from using 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) materials to reducing their carbon footprint, including the carbon footprint of their entire supply chain.” – Mike Lane, CEO, Meyers

The decision to make the switch to solar allows Meyers to take another step toward sustainability, save thousands in overhead costs, and allows their stakeholders an opportunity to feel involved in making an impact on climate change.

Congratulations, Meyers!

From the project’s inception to completion, it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with our partners at Meyers. IPS is available to assist businesses and organizations in answering questions about solar energy. Interested businesses and organizations can contact us to learn more.

 

Meet Saint Paul’s Largest Commercial Solar Array

On August 4, 2020, in partnership with Impact Power Solutions, Vomela unveiled its new solar-powered corporate headquarters in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Who Does the Commercial Solar Array Belong to?

Vomela is known for transforming ideas into memorable brand experiences through print media, offering a full spectrum of services to companies ranging from major retailers to local businesses since 1947. The industry leader moved to their new 300,000 square foot headquarters in the East Side of St. Paul in 2019, and regularly contributes to sustainability and making an impact

What Impact Will the Commercial Solar Array make on the Environment?

The 3,408 panels will produce roughly 1,600,000 kWh per year, enough to power 131 average Minnesota homes. Over 30 years the solar panel system will offset nearly 36,000 tons of CO2, the equivalent of adding over 44,000 acres of trees to our forests.

  • 3,408 Panels
  • 1.3 Megawatt System Size
  • 2,400,000 Lbs of Co2 Offset Per Year
  • 1,483 Acres of Forest Preserved Per Year
  • 1,606,500 Killawatt Hours Generated Per Year

 

“It’s good news for our environment, it’s good news for our children, it’s good news for our lungs, and it’s good news for our future.” –Melvin Carter, Mayor of Saint Paul

Why Did Vomela Choose Solar Energy?

Making the decision to move forward with a commercial solar array isn’t always an easy one, but for Vomela, the decision just made sense.

“Where many companies used to ask “Why solar?”, the answer has become “Why not?”

The decision to make the switch to solar allowed Vomela to take another step toward sustainability, save thousands in their overhead costs, and allowed everyone to feel involved in making an impact on climate change. 

Congratulations, The Vomela Companies!

“Vomela has also been a great partner, and very smart about energy. They understand that solar makes them more competitive. Working with visionary teams like Vomela typically leads to successful outcomes.” – Eric Pasi

From the project’s inception to completion, it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with our partners at Vomela. We’re always happy to be a resource to help companies realize the potential of commercial solar for their business, and to build a better future by providing access to renewable energy.

If you’re ready to make an impact on the environment and your overhead costs, visit our projects page to learn more and get a quote today to get started.

Impact Power Solutions Ranked top 10 Solar Developer in the US

What is the Top Solar Contractor’s List?

Curated by Solar Power World, the Top Solar Contractors list is made to showcase the work of solar installers and developers of all sizes. The list is determined by the number of kilowatts installed by a solar energy company in the previous year, divided into categories by the type of service the top solar contractor provides, regions, and states.

From the Curators of the Top Solar Contractor’s List

“The Solar Power World team is so pleased to highlight more than 400 companies on the 2020 Top Solar Contractors list, especially during this unprecedented time,” said Kelsey Misbrener, senior editor of Solar Power World. “All contractors featured on the 2020 list reported strong 2019 installation numbers and are continuing to stand tall this year.”

Top Solar Contractors Continue To Strive For Recovery

Despite COVID-19 being the immediate issue for the world to address, reducing carbon emissions to aid in climate change remains a top priority that affects all of us. 


The top solar contractors that made the list, the people we work with, and the communities we live in are all facing obstacles that have never been seen before. Q1 showed the largest amount of solar capacity ever installed in the United States, adding 3.6 GW of solar capacity. The force of these challenges emerged in Q2, with forecasts of 25% and 38% decreases in year to year volumes in 2020. 


Regardless of the turbulence faced in these uncertain times, solar energy is still effective in combating greenhouse gas emissions as an alternative to fossil fuels, and will continue to aid in efforts for economic recovery

Our Take On Being A Top Solar Contractor

We’re thrilled to announce that we are the #1 solar developer in the Midwest, among the top 10 commercial solar developers in the US, and grateful to be a part of Solar Power World’s Top Solar Contractors list for the 8th consecutive year.

 

In the 29 years since our founding, we have never faced challenges like the ones we see today. We extend our deepest thanks to our employees, clients, and community for making the installation of 29,784 kilowatts of solar capacity possible, and for the positive impact we’ve made on the environment together. 

2020 Solar Trends: Opportunity Zones

Opportunity zones are certified low-income areas into which investors can deploy capital for value-adding projects, in exchange for federal capital gains tax and other advantages. 


In general, capital gains are incurred when selling an appreciated asset such as real estate or stocks.  The appreciated gain is taxed at a special rate, which is typically 15% to 20%.


By investing in opportunity zones an investor’s capital gains rate can be reduced by 50% to 75% depending on how long the investment is held.  


Opportunity zone funds can be used for solar, microgrids, electric vehicle charging stations, and energy storage.


Another benefit, Investors will not be taxed on any capital gains incurred from a project if they hold that property or asset for a decade or more.


There are 8,760 opportunity zones in all 50 states.

 

2020 Solar Trends: Xcel Solar Rewards Program

Xcel’s Solar*Rewards® program provides a financial incentive for residents, businesses and public entities to install solar power. Monthly payments are made to the owner of the solar system in exchange for Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) produced by solar.  This is known as a performance-based incentive or PBI.


Xcel customers also qualify for Net Metering up to 1 megawatt AC (or enough power for roughly 200 homes).  If you generate more than you need, the extra energy is added to the grid, and any excess energy will be credited to your bill. 

Additionally, there’s a specific sub-program for under-resourced communities and income-qualified multi-family.


It is important to note that small commercial incentives levels are decreasing.


Also, large projects qualify for a separate bill-credit mechanism called capacity credit program or ELPC which was strengthened in 2019.

 

2020 Solar Trends: Minneapolis Green Cost Share Program

The City of Minneapolis is offering an incentive to install solar: the Green Cost Share Program. Qualifying projects will be compensated based on the solar array’s projected first year kilowatt hour production, up to $50,000.  Funding ranges from $.20 to $.40.


Priority will be given to buildings in designated Green Zones and to buildings that are participating in the 4D Affordable Housing Program.


Worth noting, projects receiving funding will require prevailing wage.