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I’m Steve Schuster, associate editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic discusses photovoltaic systems.
The development of more efficient, cost-effective solar panels, combined with volatile energy prices, makes PV technology an attractive alternative for managing energy prices and supporting sustainability efforts. Maintenance and engineering managers considering installing a PV system need to consider several practical factors before, during, and after installation of a rooftop system.
Before installing a PV system, managers need to examine several critical factors, including business goals, energy audits, location, system size and type, roof age and type, budget, and financial incentives. Each of these factors will play an important role in the success of the project.
Prior to installing a new PV system, it is imperative to evaluate the condition of the existing roof system to determine the appropriate maintenance, repairs or replacement that might be required.
And, when installing a rooftop PV system, the roof becomes more than just a watertight barrier. It becomes a work surface with increased traffic.
Managers should consider incorporating a roof-maintenance program that begins with designing a more durable roof system and focuses on identifying potential leaks and making repairs before leaks occur.
The cost of installing a PV system has fallen dramatically in recent years, but available funding still might be a limiting factor. Current systems typically cost around $5 per watt. Although still expensive, managers should consider additional sources of funding that might reduce the overall cost to the facility owner.
Federal incentives for commercial businesses include a 30 percent tax credit on the total cost of the system and a five-year depreciation schedule, including a 50 percent bonus provided during the first year.
Many states and utilities also provide incentives and other options to consider that can reduce the payback period. Managers can visit www.dsire.org for more specific information on federal and state incentives.