9 Apr

Facility Managers: Why You Don’t Want to Own Solar

Clean Footprint works with clients who want to go solar to reduce their electricity costs. We finance these projects through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). This allows us to provide our client with electricity at a stabilized rate and with immediate savings. There is no out of pocket cost to the client and Clean Footprint handles all aspects associated with the development, installation and maintenance of the array. Solar technology is sophisticated and needs a specialist to understand and monitor it. While we strongly advise against buying a solar array, we have worked with clients who have purchased a solar array in the past and were not pleased with the outcome.

In one such instance, Clean Footprint was working with a Fortune 500 company that had decided to purchase a solar array and take advantage of the rebates and tax incentives. The array was installed and connected to the company’s building. At this point, all risk and responsibility associated with the solar array belonged to the company and the company’s facility manger was tasked with maintaining and operating the array. Purchasing a solar array requires a huge initial investment that can be very rewarding in the long run if you have the time, expertise and desire to operate, maintain and administer the array. The company believed the array would provide a great return on investment with little maintenance or upkeep. And this was the case, for the first seven months.

One day, a string inverter broke on their array. The inverter is a key component to the solar array. It is responsible for converting the electricity produced by the array (AC) into electricity your building can use (DC). Because the company owned the array, the responsibility of obtaining a new inverter was left up to the facility manager. Unfortunately, since the time the solar array was installed, the inverter company had gone out of business. This left the company with a broken inverter, a solar array that wasn’t producing usable electricity, and no idea where to get another inverter that would be compatible with their array. The facility manager began searching for a new inverter company hoping that the search would take a week or two. Nearly six months later he finally found an inverter that was compatible. Keep in mind, this whole time the company’s solar array was not producing any usable electricity and the company was not saving any money on their electric bills. The large investment they made was not paying off. Instead of saving money, they were paying even more than before they installed solar.

Regrettably, this story is not uncommon. Companies want to own their array to take advantage of the rebates and tax incentives but are unaware of the responsibilities and risks they assume after the array is installed.

With a 3rd party financed solar array, all the responsibility falls on the solar company - a company that is experienced in the area of solar and understands the complexity of the technology. Through the PPA, Clean Footprint finances the array and shoulders all the risk associated with solar.

If the same story had been rewritten with a PPA instead of the company owning the array, the inverter would have been fixed much faster. Clean Footprint would have been alerted of the damaged inverter through its monitoring of the array. We use state-of-the-art monitoring systems (like the one above) that alert us immediately if anything goes wrong with the array. In this scenario we would have known that the inverter company was out of business but would also know many other inverter companies and the specific requirements needed for this install. This would have reduced the time needed to replace the inverter from six months to less than two weeks. Additionally, any costs associated with replacing a faulty inverter are fully covered by Clean Footprint. The client would not have had to worry about any costs other than paying the electric bill.

If your company is thinking of installing and owning a solar array, think again. Unless you have a solar expert on staff, it is not a good investment. Not only is there a large upfront cost associated with buying solar but parts may break that your company is not equipped to handle. Under the terms of a PPA, not only does Clean Footprint cover all the costs (so there is no money out-of-pocket to you!) but we will handle any damage in a timely manner, so that your company can get the most out of your solar array!

If you are interested in learning more about going solar with a PPA or would like to get your free solar quote, please visit us online or give us a call at 321-613-4424.

Eliza Porter

Eliza Porter

Eliza is the Chief Learning Officer for Clean Footprint. As the Chief Learning Officer, she is responsible for writing and editing blogs, e-books, videos and white papers as well as other learning content created for Clean Footprint’s developer partners and clients. Eliza attended New York University in Paris, France and studied Global Liberal Studies before moving to Florida and joining the Clean Footprint team. She also studied Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Central Florida.