From the financial standpoint, deploying a commercial solar system is almost always a good decision in Australia. Since local electricity is expensive, and solar systems are affordable and long-lasting, an attractive return on investment is guaranteed. You just have to make sure the photovoltaic system uses high quality components covered by warranties, and get in touch with a qualified solar installer.
However, even when the business case for solar power is so favorable in Australia, there are factors that prevent its use in some properties. The following are some of the main issues that hold back homeowners and businesses who are considering solar power:
Although solar power systems are much more affordable than one decade ago, the upfront investment can still be out of reach for some homeowners and companies.
Even if the capital for a solar system is available, homeowners and businesses may be unwilling to spend the full amount at once. For example, a residential user may be budgeting an air conditioning upgrade first, and a company may be considering a new piece of equipment that increases manufacturing productivity.
When capital is a limitation to deploy solar power, a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is a great alternative.
An added benefit of a solar PPA is that you get maintenance from experts for the entire term of the contract. If any piece of equipment must be replaced and there are warranty claims, the PPA provider takes responsibility.
If you rent an apartment or a commercial space, there is little incentive to upgrade the property because it doesn’t belong to you. Although you may get authorisation from the landlord to install a rooftop solar system, this is only a viable option if you plan to rent the same property for a long time. If you change your mind and wish to relocate, you have to dismount and take the solar system with you, or you must convince the owner to purchase it.
There are also viable solutions in this case, but the best approach changes depending on how you are billed for electricity:
If you are metered and billed directly by an electricity retailer, you can consider a concept called community solar power, where you reduce power bills with electricity from a solar system installed somewhere else. The purchasing options are the same as when you deploy a solar system directly on your property: paying to own a portion of the community solar system, or paying for cheaper electricity through a PPA.
If you are sub-metered, the landlord can deploy a solar system to reduce the total power bill, and then a portion of the savings can be passed on to tenants. With this approach, just keep in mind that the property owner must agree first – a solar PPA can be an attractive option, since the upfront investment is zero, and electricity savings from common areas benefit the owner.
There are also cases where electricity consumers cannot deploy solar power simply because there is no space. This is a common limitation for apartments owners in multifamily constructions, who normally have more apartments above, or a shared rooftop that cannot be used for solar panels. Businesses may also face this limitation if they purchase a commercial space with no individual rooftop area.
The community solar power approach is also viable in this case: since there is no rooftop area available for a solar system, electricity consumers can use the energy output of a photovoltaic array located somewhere else. Depending on their preference, they can purchase a share of a community solar project, or they can sign a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).
Some electricity consumers have another limitation: the space for solar panels is available, but the project cannot proceed due to site conditions. For example, some old roofs use brittle fiber-cement shingles, which can easily break during the installation of a solar system. Other properties have adequate roof structures for solar panels, but are constantly covered by the shadows of nearby buildings or natural obstacles.
When the area for solar panels is available, it may be possible to fix site conditions limiting their installation.
In cases where the obstacles casting shadows are impossible to remove, you can follow the same approach as renters and property owners with no rooftop – purchasing electricity from a solar array located somewhere else.