Going solar — As technology advances, so do benefits of alternative energy

A solar energy system has a range of benefits that outweigh its one big drawback — the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day, says Matt Owens, president of Ameridian Commercial, a Cincinnati roofing, maintenance and solar company.
“Current commercial roofs depreciate on a 39-year schedule, so you rarely see a financial payback. But a company can save money — and potentially earn money — by going green, too,” he says.
Financial solution
Solar has been called more than just an energy solution; it’s a financial solution that’s becoming more viable and cost-efficient. In fact, with current market conditions and various incentives available, the payback period can be a quick as 60 months.
Overall costs of solar panels, installation and upkeep have diminished considerably over the years, while quality, variety and versatility have improved. Additionally, the energy output of a solar system can be predicted with reasonable accuracy, so the expected monthly “income” can be identified and built into a company’s financial operating plans.
“The price of electricity can fluctuate significantly due to demand and market conditions,” Owens says. “This can create a huge problem for businesses that operate on tight profit margins and encounter unpredictable swings in operating costs. By utilizing a solar energy system, companies can take more control of electricity expenses.”
In Ohio alone, there are more than 75 loan, rebate and tax programs to encourage energy efficient practices. Funding and other credits are one of the driving forces pushing companies to take part in this growing industry. In some industries, there are performance requirements placed on suppliers by larger manufacturers in order to maintain business relationships. Renewable energy sources can be one way to meet those expectations.
“Aside from environmental implications, solar is a sound, long-term investment that can allow a company to fix and accurately predict a portion of their future operating costs,” Owens says. “No one knows what the price of electricity will be five or 10 years from now, but with solar energy, you can limit costs and minimize exposure to future market changes.” 
Recent industry developments
Available space can be a limiting factor when considering solar. There have, however, been developments in alternative mounting solutions, such as parking canopies, awnings and other freestanding structures. These structures are pre-engineered, which makes them fairly easy to specify and construct in a given site.
Another recent development is the application of bi-facial modules paired with a reflective white “cool” roof system. These modules have solar cells on both sides, which allows energy production not only from the sunlight directly hitting the face of the module, but also from light reflected off of the roof surface and on to the back side of the module. This results in greater energy production in the same roof space.
“With the overall growth of the industry, material and product suppliers have turned their attention to the renewable energy market,” Owens says. “Many new products and services have been developed, which have led to some standardization and common practices in the industry which have improved installed system quality and long-term reliability.”
How to reach: Ameridian Commercial, (513) 769-0150 or www.ameridiancommercial.com