As solar technology is making its way mainstream, many of us are wondering if our home or business is suitable for a solar power system. Retrofitting a solar panel system to an existing building is fairly straight forward, most times. The following guide outlines the fundamentals to see if solar has a place in your portfolio.
One of the first steps in determining if the solar project is feasible is to check the municipal zoning laws for any restrictions for your property. The planning and engineering department of the municipality will provide the details of their requirements and if there are any restrictions. Most times this information can also be found on their website.
The grid infrastructure servicing your property may also restrict the feasibility and size of your solar project. In some rural areas of Ontario the grid may not accommodate a solar generation system due to proximity or other constraints. Preliminary checks and verifications are crucial at this step as the restrictions will need to be strictly adhered to.
If the municipal and the grid infrastructure allow your project to proceed, the next step is evaluating the energy goals of your project. The ideal solar power generation system would produce enough energy to support the demand of the property. The generation capacity is directly influenced by the space available, relative shading and orientation of the solar array. Other things to consider is if there's any adjacent buildings or trees that may influence solar irradiation levels. Buildings with large, open non-shaded roof areas are perfect for the amount of real estate solar demands.
The design and structural integrity of your building will be important factors when considering a rooftop solar power system. A project should never proceed without the approval of a structural engineer. The evaluation process should start with a comprehensive visual inspection and reviewing as-built drawings of the existing building. Load calculations can then be performed by the engineer to determine how the proposed solar power system will affect the building. In most cases the original structure will be within the tolerances of the building code to handle a wide variety of installation types.
In both residential and commercial application, the electrical infrastructure should be assessed to confirm that everything from wiring, distribution, switch gear and service is up to current electrical codes and bylaws. Any upgrades or changes required to the electrical service for your property can influence the cost of the solar panels electrical connection. The location for the inverters and other electrical components will need to be considered.
In conclusion, if the above factors have been considered and indicate a high project feasibility, your building is more than likely ready for solar.