Solar repowering is a hot topic within the solar industry driven largely by local incentive structures, rapid technology advancements and decreased equipment costs.  Increasing capacity on a site can bolster financial returns, alleviate steep operations and maintenance costs, and increase system longevity, but comprehensive due diligence should be done to confirm that it is the right time and application for your assets.

Repowering is common practice in the wind industry, and solar repowering has been taking place in Europe for several years now.  Delving into more established markets uncovers lessons to learn from and can lead to increased financial results, which is encouraging for the repowering market in the United States.

With an influx of tax equity coming into the renewable energy space, system owners are purchasing older assets and actively exploring the idea of repowering. In states where local incentives are maturing, such as Massachusetts SREC-1 which launched in January 2010, the notion of increasing capacity to maximize returns is very attractive, but there are a lot of factors to investigate.

Determining which components to replace is essential in your repowering research.  Inverters are often the first piece of equipment looked at for replacement because central inverter parts can be difficult to source and the exposure to a central inverter failure carries large production risks.  Inverter manufacturers see the need to support repowering efforts and the expectation is that viable solutions will be available in the market soon. Upgrading to higher efficiency modules carries its own unique challenges.  Often, older racking systems do not have the UL certifications for new equipment and as wind and snow load requirements have evolved, the need to replace racking components to accommodate new modules must be considered.

It is generally recommended that owners maintain their existing interconnection and zoning approvals to avoid utility upgrades or long review times, but each utility and AHJ views changes to an existing system differently.  Getting ahead of the authorities is key in determining your repowering feasibility and returns.

While repowering may seem daunting, Decom Solar will work with developers and system owners to determine the best solution for your asset.  We provide turnkey quotes for the labor, disposal, repurposing, and shipping of all replaced equipment.  We work with equipment manufacturers to maximize the amount reusable material and provide engineering insight to determine cost-effective solutions for your repowering efforts.  If you are considering a repowering project, Decom Solar can find the optimal solution to maximize long term returns.

Since solar installations began there have been conflicting opinions on how corporate clients should approach the useful roof life for their building. Commercial roofs are typically warrantied for 20 years, and solar arrays are meant to remain in place for 25+ years.  This creates a difficult decision for companies who are looking at installing solar. Do you re-roof prior to installation to keep warranty periods closely aligned or do you move ahead with the solar installation and deal with future roof issues as they arise?  It is generally recommended by solar developers that if your roof has 10+ years of usable life left it is most cost effective to move ahead with a solar installation, and they are not wrong, but did you budget for a decommission and re-installation in year ten of your solar array’s life? Typically, no.

Decom Solar has worked with several clients who have faced this exact scenario and it is expected that this will continue to be a problem to solve in the industry.  There are several factors to consider when the time for a re-roof arrives.

Communicating with permitting agencies is of top priority when assessing a re-roof and reinstallation of solar equipment. Often, the local authorities may require you to bring your existing solar array up to current code, which can result in significant costs for engineering, equipment, and installation.

Coordination with your roofing partner is the next key step in keeping re-installation costs down.  Different roof applications require different installation methods and understanding how the construction of the new roof is being performed can bring creative re-installation solutions to the forefront, mitigating significant labor costs.

Local incentive programs can also impact company’s decisions on a best path forward.  If incentive structures are still very strong, it is worth considering installing a new solar array all together, which may drive significant financial returns for your business.

No matter the scenario, it is highly recommended that companies get ahead of these challenges so they can understand the associated costs and budget accordingly.  Avoiding a scenario where your roof is failing, and you need to scramble to solve the problem, is of the utmost importance.

Decom Solar can help system owners work through the challenges of decommissioning and recommissioning a solar installation.  We pride ourselves on understanding all aspects of solar installations and we have successfully worked with developers, permitting agencies, and roofing partners to develop cost-effective solutions for our clients.

Whether you are just starting to look at solar or already have solar installed, Decom Solar can help plan for your future re-roofing needs.  Visit www.decomsolar.com for more information.