Updated: Jan 7, 2020
In 2019, there are more ways to reduce your company’s environmental footprint - and more reasons to do so - than ever before. With Federal and State incentives scheduled to expire, combined with historically low rates for installation... there has never been a better time to convert your business to solar energy.
Many businesses, builders, and construction companies are reducing their environmental footprint with eco-friendly initiatives that both help protect the environment and save money - benefits include improved efficiency, reduced costs, and customer satisfaction.
But with such lucrative opportunities on the table, even progressive businesses are left wondering "where do I even begin?" To gain some much-needed insight, we sat down with Jeremy Conner, CEO of National Energy Partners (NEP). As the head of nationally-renowned solar development company with a $100 million+ project portfolio, he provided valuable insight into establishing a great starting point.
1) What makes National Energy Partners most unique as a solar development firm?
NEP offers Turnkey Solar Solutions for businesses of all sizes, and in diverse industries. We offer complete project management for solar development, from consultation to permitting and interconnection, system monitoring, and maintenance. As part of our service for businesses, once the system is installed, we provide custom marketing services to announce the business’ commitment to renewable energy to clients and members of their community.
2) Why should businesses consider solar energy?
Solar power has far-reaching benefits to business owners in the United States.
Financial Benefits: For businesses, commercial solar is a lucrative, high-return investment. Our clients will experience an average payback period of 1-2 years, for a system that will last 25 years with our warranties. The leading advantage is utility savings. For the life of the solar panel system, businesses receive free electricity generated from their system. Most businesses can eliminate their utility bill for 25 years or more. The second part of this equation is the market for renewable energy. At this time, businesses can receive 60% Federal Tax incentives. Additionally, State incentives, such as Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) give the business annual cash payments for producing solar energy. This provides an annual source of revenue.
Solar Energy is Good Business: Today, adopting responsible business practices with renewable, solar energy gives businesses across all industries a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Sustainability and corporate social responsibility are important components of a business’ brand identity. Consumer trends to patronize businesses that operate responsibly were once considered a “preference” but are now a “demand.” As such, businesses are finding that “green” credentials are a powerful force driving consumer purchasing decisions. NEP has long recognized the profound impact that solar energy has on a business’ brand identity. As part of our service, we offer marketing and promotional services to our commercial clients to target their clients and communities. These services announce the business’ commitment to renewable energy and explain the impact that their solar energy system will have on the environment.
3.) What advice would you offer local businesses when it comes to investing in environmentally-friendly alternatives like solar energy?
When converting your business to solar energy, the most important decision you will make is selecting the best firm for solar development. This goes a long way to secure the highest return on your investment. National Energy Partners offers our clients full-service project management. Our clients are privy to our 10+ years of industry experience and its advantage with the relationships that we have established. This impacts everything, from securing permits and approvals, warranties, system performance and maintenance, construction and beyond.
4.) How can businesses get started with solar energy?
When speaking with a solar development firm, ask them about their experience. Ask for a list of references from previous commercial clients, along with their contact information. Ask their clients about their experience with the vendor through the stage of planning, construction, and post-construction. Are they happy with the service they received? Would they recommend the firm? Most importantly, ask the firm to “guarantee” the price on the contract. Many businesses will incur excessive “hidden” costs, that are the result of the firms poor planning. Ask the firm: “If additional costs are incurred, who will be liable?”
5) What benefits can an experienced solar development firm offer businesses converting to solar energy?
Solar energy provides many benefits, and partnering with experienced solar project developers provides further benefits throughout all phases of the solar project. An experienced firm will:
Guarantee the cost of your project, and assume responsibility for any additional costs that might arise
Identify Federal and State incentives to offset the cost of your solar panel system
Work around your business’ schedule through construction, to prevent any interruption to your business’ operation
Secure permits and approvals with your local utility
Keep the project on schedule
Provide maintenance and warranties through the life of the solar panel system
6) What would you say are some of the challenges businesses encounter with a solar energy project when it comes to installing solar and/or taking advantage of other clean energy programs?
The State of New Jersey ranks in 5th place for solar energy production, due to solar-friendly legislation issued by the State. The increased promotion of solar energy has caused an increase in demand, which has caused an increase in restrictions by utility companies.
A solar panel system requires interconnection to your local utility grid. Since utilities are increasingly closing off areas to solar development, they are closing the many benefits that come along with it.
7) How are companies overcoming these challenges?
First, finding and securing an experienced solar development firm to manage your solar project is the only way to overcome utility restrictions. An experienced firm can tap into their established relationships to gain the approvals and permits needed, and expedite the process substantially.
Second, businesses should start sooner, rather than later. As utility companies close more areas, opportunities become increasingly limited.
8) What do you predict for the future of solar energy?
The future of solar energy is now. Traditional fossil fuels are scarce. Because the source of traditional fuels is limited, the market has consistent volatility, and businesses pay the price. The cost of fossil fuels has increased by an average of 3% each year for the last decade, while the cost to install solar energy has declined by more than 70% during the same timeframe. More businesses are realizing the economic gains of solar energy, but time is of the essence. Further, leading Federal and State incentives are set to expire or adjust by 2020. The sooner your business adopts solar energy, the more eligible you will be to take advantage of leading incentives, and thus, the greater return will be realized by your investment.
9) What do you recommend in terms of project finance for solar development?
The most lucrative returns are gained in owning your solar energy system. This can be achieved through a cash purchase or financing. On average, these methods allow clients of National Energy Partners to pay off their solar energy system within 1-2 years while granting our clients eligibility for the lucrative incentives.
Pending your business model, a Power Purchase Agreement can help yield competitive gains. Smaller businesses can even see returns on programs developing community solar through solar farms, or utility scale projects.
10) Is there anything else you feel is important to share with business owners considering solar energy?
The adoption of solar energy provides one of the few opportunities to expand your company's earnings, and help the environment at the same time. The environmental impact that solar energy has, is one that cannot be underestimated:
Solar generation offsets more than 73 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year, equivalent to:
Taking 15.6 million vehicles off the road
Planting nearly 1.2 billion trees (Source)
Buildings are responsible for 38% of all carbon emissions in the U.S. (Source)
Want to learn what solar energy can mean for your business? Contact National Energy Partners today for a Complimentary, No-Risk Service Consultation! (856) 273-5761 firstname.lastname@example.org
National Energy Partners (NEP) is a solar energy development company dedicated to bringing clean, renewable energy to businesses and residential consumers alike. At the forefront of the solar energy landscape, our passion is in fostering relationships through integrity, knowledge and efficiency. NEP embraces the specific needs and challenges of each project, offering our valued clients the best experience through strategic management, trusted relationships and eco-friendly solar energy solutions.
With over 10 years of experience in the solar industry, our portfolio includes over $100 million of projects with more in development.