How to Assess the Feasibility of Solar Roof Installations for Commercial Buildings?

March 26, 2024

Your commercial building might be perfectly suited for a solar power system, or it could be completely inappropriate. How do you know? It’s not as simple as just deciding to "go green." Solar energy projects require a careful design process and an in-depth feasibility study to ensure viability and financial sense. The sun might be free, but solar panels, installation costs, and system maintenance are not. This article will guide you through the process of assessing the feasibility of solar roof installations for commercial buildings.

Understanding Solar Energy Systems

Before you dive into the feasibility study, it’s vital to understand the basics of a solar energy system.

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Solar power systems depend on photovoltaic (PV) panels to convert sunlight into electricity. These panels are often installed on the roof of the building, where they can receive the most sunlight. The generated electricity is then converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), the type of electricity typically used in commercial buildings. The size of the solar power system, or the number of solar panels required, will depend on several factors, including the building’s electricity needs, the available roof area, and the geographical location.

One crucial aspect you should understand is that solar power is an intermittent energy source, which means it only produces electricity when the sun is shining. To counteract this, some solar power systems are paired with energy storage solutions, like batteries, while others are connected to the electricity grid, allowing the building to draw power when the solar system isn’t producing enough.

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Site Assessment

A detailed site assessment is a cornerstone of a solar project. It will determine if your building’s roof is suitable for a solar installation, and if so, how you can maximize its potential.

Firstly, you’ll need to evaluate the roof’s structural integrity. Solar panels are not light, and the roof must be strong enough to support them. Additionally, it should be in good condition – installing solar panels on a roof that needs to be replaced in a few years is not financially sensible.

You should also assess the roof’s orientation and angle. In the northern hemisphere, south-facing roofs are ideal for solar panels as they get the most sunlight. The angle of the roof will also affect the amount of sunlight the panels receive, and consequently, the amount of electricity they can produce. An optimal angle is around 30 degrees, but solar panels can still work efficiently at different angles.

Lastly, consider potential shading on the roof. Buildings, trees, or other structures that cast shadows on the roof will reduce the effectiveness of the solar panels.

Designing the Solar Power System

Once you’ve determined that your site is suitable for a solar installation, the next step is to design the solar power system. This involves choosing the right PV panels, deciding on the system size, and planning the installation.

The type of solar panels you choose will depend on your budget, your energy needs, and your roof’s characteristics. Monocrystalline panels are highly efficient and space-saving but are more expensive than polycrystalline or thin-film panels.

The system size, expressed in kilowatts (kW), will be determined by your energy consumption and the percentage of it you want to offset with solar power. A typical commercial solar installation might range from 25 kW to 100 kW.

One key aspect of the design phase is planning the installation. This involves arranging the solar panels on the roof in a way that maximizes their exposure to the sun and minimizes shading. It’s also crucial to ensure easy access to the panels for maintenance.

Financial Analysis and Project Costs

The financial viability of a solar project is arguably the most critical aspect of a feasibility study. It involves calculating the project costs, estimating the savings from the solar power system, and evaluating the return on investment.

Project costs include the cost of the solar panels, the installation costs, any necessary structural improvements to the building, and ongoing maintenance and repair costs.

Savings from the solar power system come from reduced electricity bills and, in some cases, from selling excess electricity back to the grid.

The return on investment is a measure of how long it will take for the savings from the solar power system to pay back the initial investment. A good solar project should have a return on investment of less than ten years.

Regulatory and Legal Considerations

Before proceeding with a solar project, you must understand the local regulations and potential legal issues.

Some jurisdictions require specific permits or approvals for solar installations. There may be restrictions on the size or placement of the solar panels. Additionally, if the building is within a historic or conservation area, there may be additional restrictions to consider.

Legal issues can also arise from shared buildings or leased properties. If the building is shared, you will need to agree with the other tenants or owners. If the building is leased, you may need to get permission from the landlord.

In conclusion, a feasibility study for a solar roof installation for a commercial building involves a detailed analysis of the site, the design of the solar power system, the project costs, and the potential legal and regulatory issues. It’s a complex process, but one that is vital to ensure the success of your solar project.

Potential Solar Feasibility Challenges

Understanding the potential challenges that may arise during your commercial solar project’s installation will help you prepare for and mitigate them.

Solar energy, like any other form of renewable energy, has its setbacks. One of the most common obstacles is the initial cost of setting up a solar system. Despite the considerable drop in solar panel prices over the past few years, the initial cost of installing a solar array can still be high. However, it’s important to consider this as an investment. With the right feasibility study and system design, the long-term benefits and savings outweigh the upfront costs.

Another challenge is the unpredictability of weather patterns. As solar power relies on sunlight, the efficiency of your solar panels can be affected by weather conditions and seasonal changes. If your area experiences long periods of overcast skies or heavy rainfall, the output of your solar system can be significantly reduced. To address this, it’s crucial to carry out a detailed feasibility assessment that includes an analysis of the local climate and weather patterns.

Moreover, technological advancement in solar technology is rapid. While this is beneficial as it leads to more efficient and cost-effective solutions, it also means that your solar system can become outdated quickly. Regular maintenance and upgrades can help prolong the life of your solar system and ensure it remains efficient and relevant.

Finally, the regulatory environment can pose challenges. The regulations for solar installations can vary greatly from one region to another. Some areas might offer incentives for businesses to adopt solar power, while others might have restrictive policies. It’s crucial to understand the local regulatory landscape and include this in your feasibility analysis.


In summary, assessing the feasibility of solar roof installations for commercial buildings is a multifaceted process. It involves understanding the basics of solar energy systems, carrying out a detailed site assessment, designing the solar power system, and conducting a comprehensive financial analysis. It’s also important to understand the potential challenges and legal and regulatory considerations involved in your solar project.

With the right feasibility study and careful planning, a solar power system can be an excellent investment for your commercial building. Solar power not only reduces your electricity costs but also lowers your carbon footprint and showcases your commitment to sustainability.

As the world moves towards renewable energy, solar power becomes an increasingly valid and viable option for businesses. Hence, conducting a feasibility study should be the first step in your journey towards harnessing the power of the sun and transforming it into a renewable energy source for your commercial building. Whether you are a business owner or a solar guy tasked with the project, remember to keep in mind the considerations outlined in this guide as you embark on your solar feasibility journey.