Building a commercial solar system involves several essential stages. For complex projects like shopping centres or warehouses, professional input from an experienced independent solar consultant or engineer is crucial for scoping, sizing, and modelling work. Smaller projects can be handled by the solar company itself.
The process includes concept design, determining system size, and financial modelling based on energy consumption patterns. A commercial solar project bidding document is created, specifying requirements and inviting competitive submissions. Once the winning company is chosen, construction begins, with compliance checks and technical requirements ensured before grid connection.
Involving an independent solar consultant ensures site safety, quality control, and proper staff training. An appropriate monitoring and maintenance schedule is crucial for long-term benefits. This comprehensive approach ensures a successful and cost-effective commercial solar system installation.
Commercial solar – make a plan and get advice
In the case of large projects like shopping centres, you have to work with a professional. We recommend an experienced independent solar consultant (ISC) or solar engineer. Conversely, for smaller projects, the solar company can handle everything.
Purchasing a commercial solar system can be complicated, and making one wrong decision can be costly over the years. Often, many purchasers rely on the solar installation company for information.
However, this advice should be double-checked, as sometimes the company will not give all the details. Since they are not communication professionals, learning about the process and potential pitfalls is a wise course of action.
Furthermore, understanding the stages of a solar project is essential. It not only helps in making the right decisions at the right time but also following this approach will significantly increase the chance of success.
What are some of the stages of getting a commercial solar system built?
1. Concept design and system size
- During this stage, energy needs and drivers are assessed. Site conditions are matched with infrastructure. System location and space are considered.
- The existing electrical infrastructure must be assessed. Grid connection must be checked for suitability. For roof mounts, a structural check is needed. This ascertains the roof’s suitability.
- Ground mount systems need a geotechnical assessment. A detailed list of requirements is in the next section.
To determine the right system size, each business’s unique needs must be considered. Energy consumption patterns may vary. They can change daily, weekly, or seasonally. Each system must be tailor-designed after an energy assessment. This includes an analysis of existing energy usage. It predicts future electricity needs. The final evaluation will provide energy modelling. This maximises the benefits of the solar system, including battery storage.
2. Work out the system requirements and undertake some financial modelling
Most customers seek to purchase a tailor-made solar system to match energy demands. This is achieved through detailed energy consumption information and modelling against solar generation to ensure the appropriate system size is installed.
3. Create a commercial solar project bidding or tender document
As each business has unique needs, each solar system must be tailor-designed, considering the specific site and the local energy assessment. Usually, with large projects, the client issues a Request for Quotation (RFQ) or Request for Tender (RFT) bidding document after project scoping and determining all requirements.
Subsequently, this is done with the partnership of an Independent Solar Consultant (ISC) to ensure a competitive quote and outcome. Following that, the bidding document will then be distributed to appropriate solar industry companies. Then, the completed submissions will be reviewed in conjunction with the ISC.
This analysis includes specific criteria such as the products and warranties offered by the solar company, project delivery plan, price, and system performance. In addition to these factors, the assessment should include previous experience in delivering similar projects, detailed lists of inclusions, long-term support, output warranties, and so on.
Moreover, specifying the components and expected system performance in the tendering document is best to minimize risk. Doing so will ensure that the solution is assessed based on the investment vs system performance and not only on upfront cost. Lastly, it’s worth noting that most tenders only specify “Tier 1” products, leaving room for inferior products with costly long-term consequences.
4. Building the solar system
Once the tendering process is completed, it is time to start building the solar system. The winning company must submit a request to connect the approach to the grid and ensure all compliance and technical requirements are well covered before attending the site for installation. At the end of the construction stage, the Distribution Network Service Provider (DNSP) may inspect the site and energise the system, provided the installation was done according to requirements. At this point, the system will be in full operation.
Suppose an ISC was appointed to manage the project. In that case, their initial responsibility would include auditing site safety aspects, managing quality control, and ensuring proper staff training. Additionally, they must see to it that system documentation occurs before completion and handover. Furthermore, establishing an appropriate monitoring and maintenance schedule for future years is essential to ensure the most beneficial long-term outcome.
So, here are the key steps in clear order:
- First, clarify your purchase drivers: Identify the primary reasons for investing in a solar system. This might include reducing energy costs, utilising renewable energy, or meeting sustainability goals. Having clear drivers will guide the rest of the process and align the project with organisational objectives.
- Next, undertake the financial modelling: Analyse the cost structure, potential savings, and return on investment (ROI) for the solar project. This step includes estimating installation costs, maintenance, potential government incentives, and savings on utility bills over time.
- Then, size the system: Determine the optimal size of the solar system based on the energy consumption pattern of the building, available roof space, and budget constraints. Proper sizing ensures that the system meets energy needs without excessive oversizing, which might lead to unnecessary costs.
- Following that, determine the detailed design: Finalise the specific layout, components, and engineering aspects of the solar system. This includes selecting the type of panels, inverters, and mounting systems, and ensuring compliance with local building codes.
- Subsequently, gain quotes: Request quotes from multiple solar providers, detailing the costs of equipment, installation, and any ongoing maintenance. This phase allows for a comparative analysis of pricing and services offered by different vendors.
- Afterwards, obtain approvals, including checks regarding any potential connection to grid hurdles: Secure necessary permissions and understand potential barriers to connecting the system to the local electrical grid. This may involve coordination with utility providers, and regulatory authorities, and ensuring that the connection meets all applicable standards.
- Finally, communicate clearly in the tender document the desired outcomes: Outline the goals, specifications, timelines, and evaluation criteria for the project in the tender documents. The clarity in this final step helps potential bidders understand what is expected and ensures that the bids align with project needs.
Running the Tender
- Run the tender process: Manage the process of inviting, receiving, and reviewing bids. This includes setting deadlines, hosting pre-bid meetings if needed, and ensuring that the process is transparent and fair to all potential vendors.
- Next, compare quotes: Evaluate the bids based on price, quality, vendor experience, and alignment with project goals. This side-by-side comparison helps in shortlisting the most promising offers.
- Then, undertake a compliance check: Confirm that the selected vendors comply with all relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards. This might include checking licences, insurance, safety records, and other qualifications.
- If needed, get expert help to determine the best tender – in case you do not have this in-house: Consult with an independent solar energy consultant or technical expert to evaluate bids if internal expertise is lacking. This ensures that the evaluation is thorough and considers all relevant technical and financial aspects.
- Subsequently, gain required permits: Obtain all necessary permits, including building permits, electrical permits, and any special permissions required for the installation and operation of the solar system. This step ensures legal compliance with local authorities.
- Finally, select the winning tender: Choose the best-suited vendor based on the entire evaluation process, and formalise the agreement through a contract. This selection should align with the initial purchase drivers, financial considerations, and design requirements for the project, ensuring a successful implementation of the solar system.