Renewable Energy FAQ

Does it have to be on my roof? ... Click Here

When conditions permit, the roof is a great place to install solar because it uses space that usually serves no other purpose. Almost all commercial rooftop applications are installed with a ballasted system that requires no roof penetrations. However, when the roof is not an option or does not offer enough space, the system can be installed on the ground or on a canopy in parking areas. Ground mounts and Parking Canopies are very common in commercial applications.


Does the U.S. have enough sun to use solar effectively? ... Click Here

Yes. Nearly all parts of the continental U.S. have very good weather and sunlight characteristics for generating solar energy. The place in the world that has the highest utilization of solar energy is Germany which has relatively low solar availability compared to most of the continental U.S.


Is there any maintenance required? ... Click Here

There should be no maintenance required. If the panels are not performing correctly, they need to be assessed by a professional. Excessive dust or soil on the surface of the panels will reduce performance. In normal circumstances, rain water will keep the panels sufficiently clean. An extremely conscientious owner may choose to gently wash the panels after long periods of drought or extremely dusty conditions. There is usually more "pride of ownership" benefit to washing panels than actual economic benefit.


How will I know how well the panels are performing? ... Click Here

Standard practice for Tri-M is to include a monitoring system that tracks a variety of performance attributes and sends alerts when something goes out of tolerance. There are a variety of very effective solutions for monitoring available. In some cases we custom build monitoring solutions to offer a highly sophisticated level of performance tracking and data collection. The monitoring solution we built for the solar array at our headquarters campus is a great example of what is possible. Click here to see our dashboard.


What about the technology? Is it reliable? Will it be out of date next year? ... Click Here

The technology we are currently using is more than thirty years old so it is very well understood across the industry and is proven to be reliable in the long-term. The technology does improve slightly each year (as do most forms of technology) but we do not foresee any major leaps forward in performance in the near future. There are a variety of very promising new technologies on the market. It will be several years before these new possibilities are both cost effective and proven to be reliable.


How long do the panels last? Can they be damaged? ... Click Here

Most solar panels are designed by the manufacturers to last thirty or more years. Damage to the panels is possible but not likely in normal circumstances. Most panels are manufactured to withstand 1" diameter hail and 120 mph winds.


Is there a warranty? ... Click Here

Most panels come from the manufacturer with a twenty-five year power output warranty. Most inverters include a warranty covering at least ten years. Tri-M includes a ten-year comprehensive installation warranty and ProActive Service with every installation. This means that we'll respond proactively to system alerts from your monitoring system and address an issue without you needing to call.


Will I have power when the electricity goes out? Do I need batteries? ... Click Here

Building codes require that a solar array shut down automatically if the electrical grid goes down. This is a safety precaution to protect the workers who will be working to restore power. If a solar array is still operating, power could be fed back through the utility company's lines and harm a worker. Most systems are installed without batteries and connected through net metering to the electrical grid. Either batteries or a generator can be installed as a back-up power source for times when the electrical grid goes down.


Can I get rid of my utility company completely? ... Click Here

This would be called an "off-grid" system. We do not recommend this for the types of installations we perform. This can be done and is most common in extremely remote situations where the electrical grid is not available. Off-grid systems are very expensive because of the need for batteries and other additional equipment. In most situations it is advisable to remain "on-grid" in order to benefit from net metering. In most commercial applications, there is not enough space available for a solar array that will produce 100% of an organization's energy consumption.


Does my insurance policy cover the panels? ... Click Here

It is important to inform your insurance company that you are adding solar. Your array should be covered by your property insurance policy. Tri-M will help with any required documentation.


What are my next steps? ... Click Here

Contact us to discuss your goals. We'll set up a convenient time to have a site visit and an initial consultation. It's very helpful to have twelve months of electric bills and information about any energy purchase agreements or demand response agreements you may have in place. We'll also need to understand your space (roof, ground, etc.) and your existing electrical infrastructure. Any drawings or diagrams you may have to help with this are also very helpful. Once we understand your goals, your energy consumption, your energy costs, and your facility, we will propose a comprehensive solution that meets your needs and offers real bottom line results.