Establishing a multi-building property as a solar campus is a common sense way to tap into large areas of unused rooftop and parking lot space for solar generation. Once a solar campus is operational the company can rejoice in its brown energy reduction while contributing to a long-term facility investment. The solar campus is one of the more interesting forms of distributed generation for commercial solar applications because all available area is being used for onsite energy production.
When creating a solar campus, there are a few steps that need to take place. First and foremost, the customer needs to decide they are committed to reducing their electricity expenses and determine the financial goals for the project. Is the goal a 5 year Return on Investment (ROI)? Or, is the goal a 10 year Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 8% or better? Or, is the goal to maximize solar energy generation over the given area and achieve the lowest Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE)? In most cases, there are multiple goals and we simply need to work through the details together.
Once the basic parameters are established, Blue Oak Energy can then work with the customer to design a solution that will bring/ensure/reap the targeted financial benefits and meet or exceed the project’s overall goals. Our analysts and engineers will then look at the electrical interconnection points and the available space for solar arrays on rooftops, in parking lots (for solar carports) and open land for ground mounted solar arrays.
Once all the preparatory pieces are in place, the engineering team at Blue Oak can design the implementation plan and ultimately begin installing a solar campus system. The variety of solar arrays located on rooftops, carports and open property will create what we call a solar campus. The commercial solar campus is a beautiful creation because your open rooftops and parking areas will now become energy generating assets!
Before or After?
While it is becoming more common for solar to be incorporated into new construction plans, solar is still, for the most part, an afterthought. This means we will usually be looking at the building or campus after construction is complete and attempting to find a solution to accommodate the solar. When implementing commercial solar projects across existing facilities, we are careful to consider the logistics to enter, stage and construct the solar project. We have worked across many active campuses to install solar facilities and the collaborative effort to install solar is important. We love working with engaged customers and tenants who will help design the implementation and logistics plans to meet their sensitivities.
While it is unlikely that the output from a solar array can completely extinguish the annual energy consumption of a high energy corporate environment, a commercial solar energy system will greatly reduce peak loads and provide a significant financial return to the host customer. In many retail stores, we have found the annual energy production from a solar array will reduce the energy import from the local electric utility by up to 30%. Typically, the annual energy import may be reduced by 5% to 100%, depending on the site’s energy consumption and the available area for siting the solar array. However, its not always about the reduction to annual energy consumption. Increasingly, utility companies are relying on Time of Use (TOU) energy rate structures and tiered rates based on a baseline of total peak demand. Installing a commercial rooftop, carport or entire solar campus system can have significant impacts to these creative electricity rate structures. Our analyst team is great at running the scenarios to determine impacts to TOU and tiered rate structures.
Why hire Blue Oak Energy for your next solar campus project?
When implementing a solar campus, there are many factors and challenges that can impede progress; Blue Oak Energy has the experience and know-how to navigate these complex issues and contingencies. A case in point is Google Headquarters in Mountain View, CA. When we engineered the solar rooftop systems and carport solar arrays for Google, we were dealing with a unique scenario. The entire main campus has a single utility company meter which fed a medium voltage distribution loop around the campus. On the Google project, we learned to work with a distributed interconnection architecture and interconnecting the inverter output throughout that medium voltage system at multiple access points.