Solar Panels For Restaurants + Commercial Buildings

Many cafés, restaurants, and food trucks are becoming more ecologically conscious. For example, food truck owners want to preserve food securely, cut operating costs, and make their kitchens more comfortable workspaces, so now they are also looking at energy renewables.

With rooftop solar panels, restaurant owners may generate the needed power and store it for use in an emergency. As a result, the restaurant will minimize its risk of refrigeration failure and the possibility of increased food waste, which significantly impacts the bottom line.

Restaurants of all kinds may get the benefits of solar energy. However, when it comes to dining out, the capacity to create and store electricity is quite functional, regardless of the food preparation.

  • Protection from sudden or total power loss
  • Reducing high utility bills
  • Creating a constant flow of essential hot water
  • Tax rebates and credits are great incentives
  • It helps conscious owners to combat pollution and waste

It’s not uncommon to come across a restaurant entirely off the grid and runs exclusively on solar electricity. The various advantages of solar electricity for eateries support such a move. As a result, solar energy is becoming increasingly popular. So come a look at how you can too.

How Many Solar Panels Does A Restaurant Need To Run?

Depending on the monthly consumption, you will need between 30-40 panels for a 10kW system to 380-410 panels for a 100kW system.

Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are among the most energy-intensive in the United States. Each year, they use an average of 81 kWh of electricity and 174,000 Btu of natural gas per square foot. In addition, refrigeration, lighting, and cooling account for around 55 percent of total energy usage.

Most electric utilities base their rates on two factors: consumption and demand. The quantity of power consumed by the building in kWh over a month is the consumption component of the bill. Demand costs get calculated using the peak power in kW that the building consumes during a specific period.

Here is a quick table to compare costs against power generation potential.

Average Annual Electric BillNumber of Commercial Solar Panels NeededPossible Power Generation Per Day (kWh)Average System CostAverage Annual SavingsRecommended System Size
$5000+30 – 4040 – 50$11,000 – $17,000$3,000 – $3,50010kW
$1000+70 – 8080 – 90$21,000 – $35,000$6,000 – $10,00020kW
$15000+120 – 140110 – 180$32,000 – $55,000$10,000 – $20,00030 kW
$20000+150 – 160170 – 190$42,000 – $71,000$14,000 – $22,00040 kW
$45000+380 – 410430 – 480$130,000 – $200,000$30,000 – $40,000100 kW
Solar Panel Sizing Chart for Commercial Buildings

These figures depend on your location, solar panel brand, installation costs, and utility rates.

Each year solar technology gets cheaper, and with the current tax incentives, 2022 is the best year to invest in solar. In most cases, a solar PV system that qualifies for the ITC (Investment Tax Credit) can also benefit from an accelerated depreciation deduction.

The Commercial Solar PV Federal Investment Tax Credit for 2022 is 26%. This EERE document will discover helpful information about eligibility, bonus depreciation calculations, incentives, and rebates. It would help if you hurried up converting to solar since the percentages drop yearly.  

  • 2006 – 2019 => 30% Tax Credit, Terms and Conditions Apply
  • 2020 – 2022 => 26 % Tax Credit, Terms and Conditions Apply
  • 2023  => 22% Tax Credit, Terms and Conditions Apply
  • 2024 onwards => 10% Tax Credit, Terms and Conditions Apply

How About Running Your Food Truck On Solar?

A food truck’s average daily electrical consumption varies according to the menu and meals they produce. For example, an Icecream truck would use an average of 3kW per day, whereas a gourmet fully decked-out truck could use 13kW per day.

Many food truck enthusiasts a decade ago wanted to go solar, but solar technology was not as advanced as it is now. In addition, the number of solar panels and the battery bank size and weight made it improbable to be cost-effective and viable.

Today, however, you would need fewer high-efficiency solar panels to charge a better load capacity battery bank. More efficient appliances also contribute to the food truck’s energy requirements.

The 6-inch square cell format was the industry standard panel size for much of the last decade. However, the new panel sizes are bigger with 7 -inch and 8 -inch wafer sizes, which may be up to 94 -inches long and 51 -inches wide.

Compared to standard 78 x 39 inch 72-cell panels, this is a size increase of 20% to 30%, which correlates to a substantial gain in power per panel. 270W max output was the norm back then, but today you have solar panels producing upwards of 700W. These panels can make a big difference in a food truck.

Commercial solar panels on a flat roof

See also: Solar Panels for Commercial Buildings (Future Proof)

How Many Solar Panels Do You Need To Run A Food Truck?

Using five 680W, 94 x 51 -inch high-efficiency solar panels, you can produce 3.4kW per hour. Solar radiation varies depending on where you are on the planet, but let’s assume you can get four peak sun hours per day. So let’s Calculate the power generation per day, 3.4kW x 4-hour peak sun = 16,6kWh.

With this solar setup, a gourmet food truck needing 13kW power per day can efficiently run all its requirements. Adding a high-efficiency charge controller, inverter, and battery bank will make more sense today than a few years ago. The only question will be can you afford such a setup?

Is It Possible To Power A Bar Fridge With A Solar Panel?

Yes, you can power a commercial bar fridge with solar. Depending on the power consumption, you can scale your solar production accordingly.

Consider a busy restaurant where numerous cooks constantly grab items from the refrigerator. Commercial refrigerators are built to endure frequent temperature fluctuations since restaurants and caterers open refrigerator doors many times during the hour.

As a result, they have more powerful compressors than a typical household refrigerator. The compressor allows commercial refrigerators to swiftly lower temperatures after closing the door. However, they have the disadvantage of consuming more electricity.

Can A Restaurant Save With A Solar Water Heater?

Solar energy can significantly reduce the cost of meeting massive hot water energy demands. Unlike more widely used solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems, solar water heating uses the sun’s energy to heat water in these systems.

In the same way, as the sun warms water in a garden hose left in the sun, the sun’s energy through a solar heater can also be beneficial to heat water for the restaurant. Solar collectors are the best to use to heat water from free sunlight. Many have already put the technology in place across the U.S.

If natural gas prices hike, solar water heating systems protect restaurants from high hot water demand bills.


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Elliot has 20+ years of experience in renewable technology, from conservation to efficient living. His passion is to help others achieve independent off-grid living.

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