A Midwestern solar power firm has discovered a novel method of convincing big box retail stores and factories to go solar: Giving them massive solar panels that stack like children’s building blocks and can be easily moved and relocated.
SoCore Energy's racks and solar panel systems are designed for rooftop use without nuts, bolts, or screws. The solar power system works on a modular basis, with prefabricated panels shipped to destination sites for installation by non-specialist workers. Several prominent clients have already signed on with SoCore: Ikea uses the company’s products at four stores, while Walgreens has signed a contract for equipping 90 Ohio locations with their panels. Hardware chain Lowe’s is another major client; national shopping mall center operators Simon Property Group, Kimco Realty Corporation, and Regency Centers also use SoCore for site projects.
For commercial and industrial clients, going solar makes more immediate financial sense than in the residential market. Depending on the state and municipality, companies embracing solar power receive considerable financial incentives including grants and tax abatements. Generous federal solar tax credits help as well. While installation of solar panels costs money, the funds are usually recouped eventually in the form of savings on utilities. Not to mention, many commercial and industrial operations have a lot of unused roof space with which to work.
SoCore’s modular panels are designed to cover a building’s roof, with individual units being ballasted down rather than fixed to the roof surface. Panels can either be purchased or leased, with SoCore engineers designing custom systems for clients that can later be installed by any contractor--whether or not they have any previous solar experience. By making panels mobile, SoCore is able to easily deal with commercial clients who either rent their property or are considering upgrading to other systems in the future.
Instead of manufacturing their own cells, SoCore purchases cells from various other manufacturers. The cells are then placed in custom racking systems which then stack on top of roofs. SoCore’s product is designed to cover the entirety of a building’s roof, and can be taken apart without tools in the event of a storm or a ceiling leak. The company has turned in profits of over $40 million and employs approximately 30 workers.
Of course, SoCore isn’t the only firm working on solar power products for commercial clients. Big box stores and shopping centers--primarily those that own their property outright or have long-term leases--routinely opt for solar power. One of the largest single-roof solar installations in the United States is at another mall, the Jersey Gardens Outlet Center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The Elizabeth rooftop was installed and operated by another company, Clean Focus.