Building For a Brighter Future: How to Build With Solar In Mind 

With Governor Hochul’s recent proposal to achieve at least 10 GW of solar by 2030—and her proposed legislation for all new building construction to reach zero-emissions by 2027—it’s never been more important for developers to put a focus on green design.

As certified NYSERDA Quality Installers, the team at GreenSpark Solar can teach you the basics of commercial solar, including how engineers, architects, and developers can design buildings with solar in mind to maximize cost savings and efficiencies for clients. By designing with solar in mind, you can include solar in your initial project designs, maximizing your cost savings and streamlining your design process. 

Not to mention, switching to solar offers several economic advantages. Right now, GreenSpark offers $0 capital investment financing opportunities. Additionally, with current state and federal incentives, up to 70% of your installation costs could be covered. That’s not to mention long-term savings—solar has a typical ROI of 10%, and offers protection against unpredictable electric rate hikes.

Ready to set yourself apart from the competition and get a headstart on the path towards a net-zero future? Here are 4 things you should know about how to build with solar in mind. 

1. Roof Loads

  • Most major roofing material companies offer guidelines for solar PV arrays that use ballasted and other racking systems.
  • Typically, a slip sheet is placed under the ballasts, or an approved roofing contractor is hired for any penetrations and flashing.
  • Check the warranty of the roofing system for how to coordinate with solar.

2. Roofing Materials

  • Ballasted photovoltaic (PV) arrays will typically add 3-6 lbs/sq ft.
  • The larger & more connected the solar array, the lower the ballast weight required.
  • Solar ballasts do not penetrate the roof.
  • A solar array that is broken into smaller pieces (due to obstructions) will lead to higher ballasted weight (6-7 lbs/sq ft vs 3-4 lbs/sq ft).
  • International Building Code: live loads can be removed from loading calculations where a PV array is located.
  • While there are a variety of mounting strategies, ballasted systems do not penetrate the roof.

3. Layout

  • Southern orientation will optimize PV performance. 
  • Low-tilt ballasted PV arrays will still be effective with Eastern & Western orientations. 
  • Centralize roof-mounted equipment such as HVAC units. This avoids shading of the solar panels and keeps the array more connected.
  • Place HVAC lines or electrical conduits in crawl spaces or rafters, or route lines together in raceways. This allows PV arrays to have larger contiguous areas, which increases efficiency and allows more solar panels to be installed.
  • Nearby trees can create a substantial amount of shade – it is recommended for smaller buildings to incorporate shorter vegetation into their landscaping plans. 

4. Electrical

  • All solar arrays require at least one inverter.
  • An inverter converts direct current (DC) electricity, which is what a solar panel generates, to alternating current (AC) electricity, which the electrical grid uses.
  • Most inverters are rated to be installed outdoors. Clients may prefer to make space in electrical rooms for the inverters.
  • It is possible to run spare conduits for power and communications.
  • Pro tip: leave extra breaker space specifically for the PV system.

Looking for more resources to take the next step? Download our free guide:

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