Project Site Qualification

Solar energy is attractive to many different client types and is almost always a smart business decision, though some businesses are more suited to solar than others. Here are some guidelines to follow when qualifying a solar project:

The business must have suitable space for solar; ensuring there is shade-free, accessible space to place solar panels is important.

Look for the following when qualifying a solar project site:

  • Roof
    • Flat roof or sloped roof space that is South or East/West Facing.
    • Old (>15 yrs) or poor condition: a roofer should inspect the roof for solar viability.

Qualifying Question: How old is the roof? What condition? Any leaks?

  • Ground
    • Cleared level ground area on the same parcel of land as the building
  • Carport
    • Clear parking lot that is on the same parcel of land as the building.

Customer Qualification

For-Profit Entities:

The Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Asset Depreciation (MACRS) can account for up to 50% of the PV system cost in avoided tax savings.

Qualifying Question: Do they have tax liability (do they pay taxes?

  • Yes: Cash purchase or Term loan is the best option
  • No: Alternative financing - Operating Lease might be the best option.

Nonprofit - 501(C) (3) entities & municipalities:


Nonprofit organizations do not have tax liability and cannot take advantage of the avoided tax savings, therefore the ROI will likely be sub-par. However, some of these organizations are driven to solar purely for the environmental benefits and have the funds to purchase a PV system in cash.

Qualifying Question: Can they pay for the system in cash? Or would they need to finance the project 100%?

  • Cash: Cash purchase is the best option
  • Finance: Alternative financing - Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) might be the best option.

Property Ownership

Owning the property is best; if the business leases the premise they will need to get the property owner/landlord to agree to the solar system installation. This is possible, typically for business entities that have long term leases.

Qualifying Question: Does the business own the property?

  • No: How long do they have left in the lease? Will the property owner allow this?
  • Owner Occupied or Non-Owner Occupied?

It is best when the business that operates at the property (uses the power) is the same as the building owner (Owner Occupied). However, there are times where a property owner leases the property to another business (Tenant). If the property is owner occupied, then no need to further qualify.

Qualifying Question (Non-Owner Occupied): Does the owner currently, or plan to, pay the electric bills for the whole property or just for the common areas?

  • If Tenant pays electric bill: Can explore options that allow sale of the solar power to the tenant(s), if interested.
  • Owner pays for just common areas: Can size a system to offset the common areas (owners meter). If that's not ideal, can also explore options that allows the sale of the solar power to the tenant(s), if interested.
  • Owner pays for the whole building: Can size a system to offset the whole building.

Qualifying Question: Do you have a Copy of the Electric Bill?

  • You will need a copy of a recent month's electric bill to properly build an accurate solar proposal. If the customer refuses to provide this without good reason, they are most likely not seriously considering solar.

An ideal customer may also

  • Own multiple properties that are suitable for solar
  • Live in a state with high energy costs and good solar incentives
  • Have large electric bills not spread across too many meters

While none of the above are considered requirements for solar, meeting these criteria does increase the attractiveness of a project for both the client and the developer.