Commercial Solar Panels: Benefits, Costs and Incentives

Commercial solar panel systems can be installed on rooftops, carports and as ground-mounted systems to provide many benefits for property owners. Many corporations with massive manufacturing facilities have expansive, flat roof space that’s perfect for generating clean, affordable solar energy.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of installing commercial solar panels for businesses and how they can save money on energy costs.

What is a Commercial Solar Panel System?

Commercial solar includes a wide variety of customers and projects. In addition to businesses of different sizes, from large corporations to local small businesses, “commercial” solar customers also include governments, schools and universities.

The majority of commercial solar installations are larger than a typical residential solar panel system. For perspective, an average residential solar energy system is around 8 kilowatts (kW), whereas a commercial solar energy system can be up to several megawatts depending on how much electricity the facility needs.

Commercial solar energy is a form of distributed generation. This means the electricity created by the system is used at or near where it was produced. Rooftop and ground-mounted residential solar, among other distributed generation projects, are usually connected to the local electric grid.

As a result, commercial property owners can take advantage of net metering. This policy allows customers to sell their surplus electricity back to the grid in exchange for electric bill credits.

Case Study: La Escuelita Educational Center in Oakland Becomes First “Grid-Neutral” School

Oakland Unified School District wanted to build an education center that would represent their commitment to high-quality sustainable construction while lowering operating costs. The installation of solar panels at the center was a natural choice because they provide most of the facility’s electrical power.

The nearly 600 kW solar energy system provides most of its electrical needs, saving the district more than $6.3 million over the lifetime of the equipment. Solar panels helped shine a bright light on La Escuelita Education Center when it was honored with California’s highest honor for sustainable school construction. The Oakland-based institution is the state’s first “grid neutral” school and is designed to teach children to be good environmental stewards.

Incentives For Commercial Solar Installations

There are a number of rebates and incentives available for commercial solar installations. With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, commercial solar projects now qualify for a 30% tax credit until 2025.

Known as the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), it’s one of the most significant financial benefits for people interested in going solar. With the current 30% tax benefit, if you invested $100,000 in an eligible solar energy system, you could receive a $30,000 tax credit.

Moreover, business owners who install solar panels can also write off the value of those installations through:

This incentive helps businesses recoup their investments in solar energy systems faster by reducing its tax burden.

Finally, because the price of solar energy is locked in, a commercial solar system also protects against rising electricity rates. Business owners we’ve worked with told us the extra solar savings freed up funds to:

  • make operational improvements;
  • purchase more inventory;
  • hire more staff; or
  • simply grow profits.

What Does a Commercial Solar Installation Look Like?

The solar panels used in commercial and industrial-scale installations are often larger than the ones found on residential rooftops. Most large commercial solar installations use 96-cell or larger panels, which are made up of 96 or more individual photovoltaic (PV) cells. To compare, a typical residential solar panel has 60 or 72 cells.

Many options exist for installing C&I projects, including: factory roof space, solar carports in parking lots and large ground-mounted arrays. Most residential solar systems rely on simple racks to position the panels at an optimal angle. Commercial and industrial systems on the other hand often include complex racking systems. Some commercial solar panel arrays have tracking capabilities that allow for more efficient use of available sunlight and maximizes electricity production.

How Much Does a Solar System Cost?

The goal of any company is to increase profits and decrease costs. Because solar decreases a big overhead cost each month, it can help companies do both.

Because every commercial solar project is unique, it’s difficult to determine how much commercial installations generally cost. However, there are a few trends that businesses should be aware of when considering how much to pay for solar power.

For commercial installations, the cost per watt ($/W) is usually a good deal lower than for residential systems. This is due to economies of scale – as system size increases, the cost of each panel will decrease. The result is that the average overall price to install a solar-power system decreases with increased system size.

Because each business’ energy needs and property are unique, we can only offer a broad range of estimates to install solar panels. Commercial installations can range anywhere from $100,000 for a small business up to $1 million or more for larger businesses with high energy needs.

Overall, the more electricity you use, the higher your utility bill will be. However, if you’re willing to spend more money now for a lower monthly payment over time, it could bring big savings to your bottom line.

Case Study: Villages Golf & Country Club Saves Millions With Solar

The Villages Golf & Country Club, the Bay Area’s largest senior community, is a 55+ leisure living community located in San Jose’s foothills. This master-planned community offers championship golf courses, restaurants and pools for its 4,000 residents.

Because The Villages is centrally managed, each homeowner pays a monthly fee that covers the costs of all shared amenities. Over the years, its electricity bills had grown to make up a large percentage of its operating budget and it wanted to reduce those costs.

Since most community residents had fixed incomes, the board wanted a no-cost financing solution that would lower their costs. Solar Technologies designed a custom solar carport canopy that will save the organization more than $5.7 million over 20 years while helping to lower monthly dues and fund improvements across the community.

Benefits and Advantages of Going Solar for Businesses

There are many reasons why businesses should generate their own electricity with solar panels:

Solar Saves Businesses Money

The most compelling reason to install a commercial or industrial solar panel system is the financial benefit. Small businesses and factories can reduce their electric bills from Day 1 by offsetting some or all of their electricity use with solar. Your solar panel system will also continue to generate free electricity for your business long after you recoup the initial installation cost.

Solar Helps Strengthen a Sustainable Brand Image

Solar panels can be a strong signal to customers, the community and investors that your company is committed to sustainable practices.

Companies and corporations are increasingly being held accountable for their response to environmental responsibility. By taking action to support clean, renewable energy sources, companies can signal that they prioritize more than just profits. Plus, a commercial-grade solar installation is a great way to generate positive buzz with stakeholders and the local community.

Installing Solar Supports the Local Economy

Many high quality solar panel installation companies are local businesses. When you contract with them for a commercial solar panel installation, it creates jobs and boosts demand for high-quality, local labor. In addition to helping you save money, your installation supports local contractors, installers and manufacturers who are part of your community.


A solar panel system can be a smart investment for your business. With many benefits, including steady financial returns and the ability to lock in low energy rates against rising costs, it’s a great way to boost your bottom line. If you’re ready to change the way you power your business, contact us today for a free customized quote.

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