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Renewable energy is having a major moment – with solar power positioned as one of the most sustainable and cost-effective energy solutions. While photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are commonly associated with stand-alone homes, many apartment buildings are beginning to realize the advantages of solar as well.  There are numerous benefits to harnessing solar power for apartment buildings, illuminating how this eco-friendly technology can have a positive impact on both property owners and their tenants.

Can Solar Panels Provide all of My Electricity?

Most multi-family buildings can be powered with 100% solar energy, however the number of solar panels needed will vary depending on your property’s square footage. Generally, a small or average-sized apartment building will require 500-1000 watts of solar PV capacity to meet its energy demand. It will likely require between 15 and 30 PV panels to provide enough solar power for an apartment complex. 

Contrary to its reputation, solar energy is becoming more and more reliable due to advances in technology and an increase in consumer demand. Solar panels are most effective in areas of abundant sunlight but solar panels are also effective during the winter and under cloudy conditions. Onsite solar power generation provides apartment buildings with a consistent source of energy.

Unlike traditional energy sources that are subject to disruptions due to fuel shortages, demand spikes, and infrastructure issues, solar power systems are designed for reliability. Solar panels ensure you’ll always have some amount of power, even during adverse weather or high demand. 

Are Solar Panels Beneficial for Apartment Buildings?

The benefits of solar panels are far-reaching, ranging from lowering energy costs and a reduced carbon footprint, to establishing more energy independence. Below, we detail each of the advantages of installing solar panels on your apartment building.

The Pros of Solar PV Panels for Apt. Buildings

Reduced energy costs: By generating their own electricity from the sun, property owners can significantly reduce their reliance on the electrical grid, resulting in lower monthly bills. This reduction in energy costs is advantageous for both property owners and tenants.

Reducing environmental impact: Solar power is a clean, sustainable source of energy that doesn’t generate greenhouse gas emissions. Properties with renewable energy contribute to a greener community by reducing their carbon footprint, mitigating the effects of climate change.

Benefitting from Financial Incentives: Government incentives, such as tax credits and rebates, are available to encourage the installation of solar energy systems. These incentives can significantly offset the initial investment required to set up solar power systems in apartment buildings. The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC) are available to offset the cost of solar systems.

Low Maintenance Sustainability: Solar panels are a low-maintenance way to create a more sustainable property. Annual cleaning maintenance is minimal, ranging from $150-350, and solar panels have a 25-30 year lifespan. 

Create an Additional Revenue Stream: Interconnecting your solar panels to the electrical grid enables net metering opportunities. Properties who generate more energy than they use can sell their surplus power to their local utility to be shared with the community.

Reliable Power and Energy Independence: Generating solar power onsite gives apartment buildings a consistent source of energy, insulating your property from power outages. Furthermore, solar panels ensure you’ll always have some amount of power, even during adverse weather or high demand.

Increased Property Value: In today’s real estate market, sustainability and eco-consciousness are in high demand. Apartment buildings with solar panels  appeal to tenants who prioritize green living. They also draw the attention of socially responsible investors, who recognize that environmentally friendly properties present a sound financial opportunity.

The Cons of Solar PV Panels for Apt Buildings

Realistically, there aren’t many cons for landlords and property owners to install solar panels. While the upfront investment can be fairly substantial, there are ample opportunities to offset those costs through federal, state, and local rebates and tax incentives. The return on investment is bolstered further by increased property value and a better reputation for your property.

That being said, residents who install portable solar panels in their apartment do have a few considerations. Tenants who opt to install portable solar panels on their balcony or windows should understand that limited space and sun exposure can lead to limited power generation. As a result, individual, plug-in solar panels may not provide as much energy savings as tenants anticipate. Regardless, these residents will still be reducing their carbon footprint and contributing to a more sustainable community.

Do Solar Panels Add Value for Renters?

According to a recent study conducted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), two-thirds of renters want green and energy efficient dwellings. 40% of renters will not rent from a property that doesn’t have green or sustainable practices. This is especially true for Millenial and Gen Z renters, who are much more environmentally-conscious than previous generations. 

While homeowners have the opportunity to invest in their own energy efficient technologies, like solar panels, the renting population does not. Another one of ACEEE’s findings is that renters are likely to spend 1.5% more in monthly rent expenditures for a building with renewable energy integration or an energy efficiency certification. If prospective renters had an easy way to compare energy costs, they would choose energy-efficient rentals 21% more frequently. Ultimately, solar panels are a major selling point for renters and establish an eco-friendly reputation for your property.

Solar Options for Individual Renters

Apartment residents in a building without rooftop solar panels still have the opportunity to harness solar power, albeit in a smaller capacity. There have been major strides in portable, plug-in solar panels making them much more affordable for individual consumers. A portable 200 watt panel can generate more than 20 kWh of energy each month when placed on a balcony with direct sunlight. This represents roughly $3-5 in monthly savings. While this isn’t enough energy to offset a renter’s entire energy demand, it will certainly reduce energy bills or power small appliances and electronic devices.

What is the Solar Panel Installation Process? Can I do it myself?

For larger, rooftop solar installations, we typically do not recommend a do-it-yourself approach if you don’t have professional experience. In order to ensure that your solar project is up to building standards and can supply enough power to tenants, it’s necessary to consult with a solar professional. After consulting your trusted solar expert, there are typically five steps to installation: an engineering site visit, obtaining permits and documentation, ordering solar equipment, installation, and project approval and interconnection.

Installing solar panels usually requires a engineering site visit, permits, ordering solar equipment, installing over 1-3 days, and inspection.

Solar Alternatives

If you are not quite ready to invest in solar panels for your property, there are additional opportunities to harness sustainable, solar power.  In deregulated energy markets, energy consumers have the power to choose their own energy supplier. 100% renewable energy plans are becoming more available and affordable due to increased consumer demand.

In addition to switching energy suppliers, energy consumers can also opt-in to a Community Solar Project, if one is available in your area. Community solar programs make solar more accessible to everyone, particularly to those with low-to-moderate incomes, renters, and other community members for whom traditional rooftop solar is unavailable. 

Case Studies of Successful Solar Panels on Apt Buildings

Delve into two real-life solar panel applications that resulted in significant cost savings and a more eco-friendly apartment building. From New York City’s Solaire building to the Blair House in Montgomery County, Maryland, solar systems stand as a sustainable way to improve building energy management. 

The Solaire Building in New York City

New York City’s Solaire Building is the first high-rise residential building in the U.S. awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The multi-unit building was completed in 2003 with the goal of creating a highly energy efficient sustainable living space. The Solaire Building installed a 5,000 square foot solar panel system that powers common areas. Due to their solar system and other energy-efficiency improvements, the Solaire reduced energy consumption by a remarkable 35%.

The Blair House in Montgomery County, Maryland

In 2019, the Tower Companies installed the largest rooftop solar PV system in Montgomery County, Maryland. Their 122 kilowatt solar system reduced the overall operational costs of the Blair House, a 12-story, 310-unit apartment building in Silver Spring, Maryland. The Tower Companies chose to purchase their solar panels outright, yielding a 100% after-tax payback in the first year. Solar power generated on their rooftop resulted in substantial energy savings in common spaces and created a new revenue stream through net-metering. The Blair House now uses their cost savings to fund additional sustainability projects and amenities for their tenants. They even installed an energy dashboard in their lobby to share their eco-friendly initiatives with residents and prospective tenants.

Create a Sustainable Apartment Building with Solar Power

Altogether, the benefits of investing in solar panels extend far beyond the initial financial incentives. Not only does it establish an attractive, eco-friendly reputation for prospective renters, but it also creates more energy independence and improves property value. As the world moves away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable living, embracing solar power is a thoughtful investment for property owners and a positive step towards a greener future. 

As your trusted resource in the energy industry, Integrity Energy is dedicated to providing the most up-to-date information and energy news available. If you’d like to find out what energy suppliers provide renewable energy plans in your area, request a free quote from our energy experts today!