PacB Group // How do Office Solar Systems Differ from Residential Systems?


How do Office Solar Systems Differ from Residential Systems?

Office solar systems and residential solar systems are both solar photovoltaic systems. Office solar systems may use the same type and size of panel that is used by a homeowner and the same type of inverters and ancillary equipment. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, which may either be used immediately or stored in a battery for later use. A hybrid system that combines both approaches is also possible. The common differences between office solar systems and residential ones are usually size, installation requirements, and system architecture.


The Size Difference Between Residential and Office Solar Systems

Office solar systems are usually bigger and have a higher production capacity than residential solar systems. Offices will usually consume more electricity and have higher demand than a typical residence does. Fortunately, offices will have more space available and can, therefore, install more panels. A typical office solar system may range from 10 kW for a very small office to hundreds of kilowatts for large corporate offices. A typical residential solar system may range from around 3 kW to 10 kW.


Panel Mounting for Office Solar Systems

Office solar panels are usually installed on flat concrete roofs. These roofs are typically sealed with a bitumen-impregnated membrane, so non-penetrating, ballasted mounting systems, which do not require the drilling of holes through the sealing membrane, are employed. In very windy areas, cable stays may be used in addition to the weight of the ballast to prevent solar panels being blown off the roof top. Office solar systems may sometimes have outdoor carpark areas in which carport structures can be erected to hold solar panels. Carports offer the benefit of providing a home for panels while also offering shade and an element of weather protection for company employees and visitors.

Residential systems may require the panels to be mounted on several possible roof types, including slate, concrete tiles, fibre cement shingles, and a variety of sheet metal roofs. Mounting solutions exist for all these roof types. One roof type that is not recommended for the installation of panels is a thatch roof. Residential panel mounting may be substantially more difficult than that of office solar systems, not only because of the large variety of roof types but also because residential roofs tend to have multiple sections with differing orientations and inclinations. Residential solar panels also require more careful planning and design to avoid shading and optimise yield.

The installation process is generally easier and faster for office solar systems because of this.


Grid-Tied Office Solar Systems

In broad terms, there are two types of solar technologies available for office solar systems. Grid-tied solar systems and hybrid solar systems. They are both types of solar photovoltaic systems that use solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, but they have some differences in how they interact with the grid and use the solar energy.

A grid-tied solar system is connected to the main power grid and does not use an energy storage system, such as a battery. Solar energy is converted directly into alternating current for use in the facility. Some areas allow excess energy to be sent into the grid for credit on the system owner’s electricity account or for payment of a set rate per unit of energy fed to the grid. Grid-tied solar systems are purely savings focused and typically do not provide backup power when the grid fails (they are current injectors and not grid forming). While the sun shines, they produce electricity, which is used as its produced. These systems are reliant on the grid being present to function and switch off if the grid fails for whatever reason. The reason power production is curtailed on grid falling away is to protect utility personnel from electricity being fed into the grid from, for example, large office solar systems while they are working on it.

In the South African context, office solar systems often turn to grid-tied solutions because it saves them the cost of the battery component, which is one of the most costly system components. Offices predominantly use power during daylight hours (in other words, when the sun is shining), so power is produced when they need it.

As the grid becomes more and more unreliable, the argument for having some form of energy storage for backup becomes more compelling. The current inability of Eskom to provide sufficient power reliably is forcing businesses to spend the extra capital and install a hybrid solution.


Hybrid Office Solar Systems

Hybrid solar systems use a hybrid inverter that can convert power from battery banks into alternating current to power their operations when the grid fails. While a grid-tied solar system can only generate solar energy when the sun is out and the grid is on, a hybrid solar system can generate and then store energy for use when the grid is down or during load shedding. Hybrid office solar systems have energy stored that can provide power to loads during power outages. This may be vital for businesses situated in areas with frequent or prolonged blackouts. There is a role for diesel generators in the commercial power backup space, but the cost of diesel dramatically increases the cost per unit of electricity, making office solar systems more appealing.

Hybrid systems are inherently more suited to residential sites because the usage profile at a home does not correspond to the solar-generation profile. Domestic usage typically peaks in the early morning and then again in the late afternoon or early evening. Usage falls outside of solar-generation times and a battery is required to store the energy produced until it is needed. Hybrid systems have higher upfront costs than grid-tied systems and batteries currently available have finite lifespans, which means additional capital will be required when the battery reaches end of life.


Turn to The Power Generation Leaders

We at PacB are recognised as a leader in the power-generation industry in Southern Africa. From being focused predominantly on the production of large, commercial, and industrial generators, we have grown into an industry expert in both generators and renewable power generation. Our expertise covers everything from residential-scale solar systems and office solar systems to large industrial projects. At PacB, we combine superior technical expertise with extensive experience to deliver optimal power-provision solutions.

For office solar solutions and solar power generation in general, we should be your first choice. We offer real expertise, tier-one quality, and superior service. If you are tired of losing money due to power outages, contact us today and get powered up.

Our qualified technicians offer support and advice in the selection of the right power solution for your needs by calculating your power requirements.

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