Why Installing Solar Power on Warehouses is a Smart Idea
Residential solar panels are becoming familiar sights as more homeowners incorporate solar power into their home energy system. But the buildings most conducive to solar power are the expansive surfaces of warehouses and distribution centers. This industrial application of solar power helps warehouse owners diversify their electrical supply and even save money on energy costs – not to mention contribute to climate change efforts and prove their commitment to sustainability. Learn more in this guide about why installing solar panels on industrial buildings is a smart move for many American companies.
Being wide, flat surfaces with near constant exposure to sunlight, warehouse rooftops are uniquely suited to solar panel installation – especially if they are south-facing. California, Florida, Illinois, Texas, and Georgia currently have the most solar potential based on the square footage of warehouse rooftops.1 But every state contains thousands of warehouses that could be candidates for rooftop solar power.
In 2023, Environment America Research & Policy Center collaborated with Frontier Group to release a new report on the benefits of solar power on warehouses. They estimate 16.3 billion square feet of rooftop space on medium and large warehouses across the United States, and that placing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on those buildings could power 19.4 million homes for a year – amounting to 185.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar electricity.2
While the available square footage on a warehouse or distribution center rooftop makes the project appealing, other considerations may impact viability. These are a few of the hurdles that need to be overcome for a successful warehouse solar project:
Warehouse Ownership: The interests of tenants and warehouse owners don’t always align to enable a solar project in a given space. A temporary tenant may not be interested in the long-term benefits of solar panels that come at a high upfront cost, while a warehouse owner who already doesn’t pay the electric bill may not be motivated to offset energy costs with solar panels.
Infrastructure Requirements: Not every warehouse has a rooftop that can sustain the weight of solar panels and racking. The building may also need HVAC renovations or other updates to successfully implement a solar system. And if the warehouse is situated in a coastal climate or other environment prone to natural disasters, solar panels may not be worth the risk of damage.
Project Cost: One of the major barriers to solar on warehouses is the upfront cost. It takes time to see return on investment, and some warehouse owners might not have the capital to invest in a major energy project – even if it saves money over time. According to Prologis, solar projects usually break even at the 8-year mark.3
In spite of the challenges that come with a large-scale solar project, many warehouse owners and developers find that the endeavor is worthwhile. From tax incentives to reducing carbon emissions in local communities, there are a variety of advantages of installing solar panels on industrial buildings.
The most obvious benefit of solar power is that it is a clean, renewable energy source that operates without contributing to carbon dioxide emissions or depleting natural resources. Installing solar panels on warehouse roofs is one way for companies to contribute to sustainable energy efforts and reduce their carbon footprint.
Major brands like Walmart and Amazon continue to implement solar rooftops on some of their warehouses and distribution centers. According to Amazon’s sustainability page, rooftop solar panels on their facilities in India, Europe, and the U.S. “can power up to 80% of the facility’s energy use.”4 Amazon even has its sights set on achieving Zero Carbon Certification status on one of its newest fulfillment centers in California – which includes installing rooftop solar panels to offset the building’s energy usage.
While environmental benefits are at the forefront of reasons to incorporate solar energy, solar power can also provide financial benefits to corporations and communities under certain circumstances. Some warehouses use solar panels to earn money back through net metering if the solar panels produce more electricity than needed for day-to-day operations.
Community solar programs even allow local residents to benefit from expansive solar installations that feed green energy back into the local electric grid, lowering energy bills and promoting clean energy.5 Programs like federal or state tax credits or feed-in tariffs play a major role in the affordability and profitability of this investment.
The total profit that a rooftop solar array drives depends on the energy efficiency of the modules – among other factors – but one inherent benefit of solar panels is the minimal cost of operation. While fossil fuel energy sources are subject to volatile prices, solar energy costs are stable and predictable. A diversity of energy sources builds stability, making sure a business doesn’t rely too heavily on a single type of electricity generation that could be disrupted.
While other megawatt solar projects require vast acreage, a warehouse solar system has the advantage of being placed on already-developed property. Warehouse solar projects don’t require purchasing or leasing large swaths of land. Instead, solar developers or warehouse owners make a dual purpose out of what would have been wasted space!
Solar panels need to arrive on-site according to strict project deadlines and without damage. These heavy, fragile loads require handling by an experienced transportation company. The team at Titan Worldwide understands how important it is to keep your project timeline on track, and we offer a range of transportation services for solar projects. From route planning to delivery, we put our extensive heavy-haul experience to work for you. Contact us for a quote or learn more about our hauling services for renewable energy projects!