What Types of Roofs are Best for Solar?

by | Dec 5, 2022

From the gently sloping roofs of a neighborhood shopping center to enormous sprawling commercial buildings, there are huge differences in roof construction and the material types used. At King Energy, our mission is to transform unused commercial rooftops into income-generating space by renting the roof. We look at every rooftop as an opportunity, however in practice some roofs are better than others installing commercial-scale solar panels. If you’re interested in leasing your rooftop to King Energy, here are some factors to consider with regard to roof construction and materials.

We look at every rooftop as an opportunity, however in practice some roofs are better than others installing commercial-scale solar panels.

 

Flat vs. Sloped Roofs for Solar

Flat rooftops are absolutely ideal for commercial-scale solar installations. This is mostly what we see on commercial buildings, especially large shopping malls, retail centers, warehouses, and other large commercial buildings. For the most part, solar panels on flat rooftops can be installed using a racking system that doesn’t require piercing the roof membrane. They are held down by ballasts (i.e. cinder blocks) spaced out so as not to put too much weight on the roof.

If the roof is located in a high-wind area, King Energy will hire a professional roofing partner to install a few attachments in the corners to stabilize the solar panels.

A racking system for a solar project on a large flat roof.

On sloped roofs the racks must be secured to the roofing materials. For this, standing seam metal roofs are ideal.  Standing seam allows us to clip the solar panel racks into the metal seams without needing to drill into the roofing material itself. If the roof is both sloped and does not contain metal seams, it will require drilling the racks through the roofing material to secure the solar panels. Sloped roofs with tile shingles are the most difficult to prepare for installation and are not usually cost effective with today’s racking technology.

Every project includes an in depth inspection by roofing professionals to ensure the roof is protected throughout the process.

 

Evaluating Roof Lifespan Before Solar

Before deciding to lease the rooftop of your building for a commercial-solar installation it is important to evaluate the remaining lifespan of your roofing material. Most roofs last 20-25 years before requiring maintenance or replacement. Ideally a roof will have at least 7+ years of meaningful life left before we install a solar program. If the current roof life can be extended to 7+ years with professional repairs, King Energy will partner with a professional roofing company to put these changes in place. If the roof has a short remaining lifespan, King Energy will provide financial assistance to make the roof replacement have a greater near-term return on investment for the property owner.

 

How Much Machinery on the Roof Is Too Much?

Depending on the type of business being operated inside your commercial building there may be an extraordinary amount of machinery, vents, HVAC equipment, and RTUs (roof top units) cluttering up the available space on the roof. The more obstacles that exist on a roof, the fewer solar panels King Energy is able to install. Ideally, we are looking for large, flat roofs with minimal RTUs obstructing the installation and maintenance of the solar panels. However, we do make accommodations for building owners needing to install HVAC and RTUs, if solar panels need to be repositioned or moved entirely.

 

Best Roofs for Commercial New Construction

If you are still in the ideation phase and dream of constructing a commercial building that is born ready to house solar panels on your roof space, here are some considerations depending on what you are hoping to offer your tenants. Large retail spaces, like shopping malls or big box stores, are perfect for rooftop installations with large, flat roofs with minimal obstructions. This model takes advantage of otherwise unused space and doesn’t obstruct building signage or curb appeal. For office buildings and industrial apartments, we recommend building covered parking for your tenants and installing solar on the flat roofs of the parking structures, even carport-style parking structures, that you have created. This increases the value to your tenants by offering them shaded, covered parking, while also giving them access to clean, locally generated power.

Large retail spaces, like shopping malls or big box stores, are perfect for rooftop installations with large, flat roofs with minimal obstructions.

Panels can be arranged around many roof obstructions without difficulty.

Regardless of the type of roof, materials, or age, let the experts at King Energy come to perform a professional evaluation. We have years of experience evaluating rooftops and making the most advantageous decisions for landlords, real estate investors, and commercial-property owners.