Steel Self-Storage and Solar Panels: A Match Made in Mini Warehouse Heaven

Published August 18, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

self-storage solar panels

Did you know your metal self-storage facility is probably a perfect place for solar panel installation?

Every business looks for ways to save money and boost revenue. Using solar power to generate needed electricity can provide savings, revenue and an investment in a solar energy system may pay for itself in as little as four to six years. Plus, you will continue to save on energy costs long after the system has returned your investment.


Why solar energy is a good fit for self-storage

Most self-storage facilities have huge amounts of open square footage on the roof and are laid out as a grid, providing the perfect design for solar panel installation. Most of the roofs of such facilities are flat, allowing the installer to tilt and angle the panels in the most optimum direction.

Design costs are lower, and aesthetically there is little change to the appearance of the building. Most self-storage is in wide open space with few trees and tall buildings to block the sun. Facilities with climate-controlled units will see the most benefit from solar power overall, although non-climate controlled facilities still require electricity to power security lights, the office, and the living space for an on-site manager.

The benefits of using solar energy

The foremost benefit of going solar is the energy savings you receive. The more energy you currently use, the bigger the opportunity is for savings. Does your facility boast any of these electricity-using elements?

  • Climate-controlled units
  • Elevators
  • Security lights
  • Security cameras
  • Interior lights
  • Live-in management apartment
  • Office along with computers and printers

Anything in your facility that runs on electricity is a drain on your profit that can be turned into savings.

Potential profit can add to your bottom line.

If you produce more electricity than you use, you may be able to sell it back to the local electrical grid or utility company. If you use Net Energy Metering, you can monitor how much electricity your facility consumes and how much excess is sent back to the grid after consumption is satisfied.

  • Contact your local utility company to find out if it will buy your excess or give you energy credits against future bills. Remind them that since most of your customers access their units at night, there is less impact to the grid at peak energy hours.

Be sure to ask if there are any caps on how much the utility will buy to figure out how much potential income you could earn.

Incentives and rebates are available from the federal government and from some states and utility companies.

The federal tax credit is coming to a close soon; if you want the full 30% of the cost of the system credited towards your taxes, you need to hurry and purchase a system very soon.

The federal incentive for new commercial systems will decrease to 10% starting in 2022. Utility companies and states may also provide programs for tax credits and renewable energy credits.

The ROI of solar is relatively quick.

A good rule of thumb is that you should expect ROI within four to six years of purchasing your system. Keep in mind that the system will continue to generate electricity and save you money over a span of 20 to 25 years or more with proper maintenance.

Installing solar panels could be a business differentiator.

More people are embracing an environmentally friendly lifestyle. If a prospective customer is trying to choose between your facility and another, the fact that you run on solar power could tip the balance in your favor.

The energy savings and extra revenue, may allow you to offer more competitive rates as well.


Things to think about before going solar with your metal self-storage facility


The price of a solar energy system can generate a bit of sticker shock unless you go in knowing about all the financing options available to you. Many banks and other financial institutions have loan programs so you can make monthly payments.

To determine how many panels you need installed, check your current energy bills and consult with a designer or installer to calculate the number of panels required to offset that expense.

steel self-storage solar roof

Roof type

Many, if not most, self-storage buildings have flat roofs, allowing solar panels to be tilted in the optimal direction to absorb the most sun throughout the day. A southern-facing pitched roof is also adequate with east and west orientations providing a little extra sun time in the mornings and evenings.

If your roof has a short parapet wall around the perimeter, the installer will need to leave enough offset from the wall to avoid shade early and late in the day.

Metal roofs and steel self-storage systems are compatible with most solar panels. Metal roofs are the best solution when using solar panels due to the extended service life of metal. There are a number of solar panel racks and accessories specific for attachment to the roof system.

If you have a sloped tile or slate roof, installation may not be feasible. If your roof will require replacement within the next few years, you should consider installing a metal roof before the solar panels are installed. Otherwise, they must be removed and replaced, adding to the cost of reroofing.

Shade and building soundness

  • Solar panels are much less effective in the shade. If trees overhang your buildings or your facility is surrounded by tall buildings, a rooftop solar energy system is not recommended. In addition to the shade, overhanging trees also bring the risk of falling leaves and branches that can obstruct or damage the panels.
  • Make sure your buildings and roofs can support a solar energy system. If the facility has many years on it or was not designed to support extra weight, rooftop solar may not be for you. The weight of the solar panels on the roof and framework may be too much for some structures.

The total number of solar panels installed in the United States continues to grow every year. Residential and commercial energy users alike are saving on their energy bills and enjoying the feeling of doing their part to decrease their environmental impact.

With critical thinking and financing, solar energy can both save and generate extra money while making your business more attractive to customers who want to save the planet. You can improve or expand your facility with the additional revenue, provide more competitive rates, and do your part to save the environment.



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