April 14, 2021

How Our Operations Team Approaches Solar for Commercial Properties

Q&A with Colin McGuckin of Nessel Energy

Meet Colin McGuckin of Nessel Energy. With operational management experience for some of the largest real estate owners in the northeast, he is a wealth of knowledge for our renewable energy team. We asked him the key questions that we get from property owners and managers about integrating solar into their facilities.

What concerns do you see from property managers? How do you address tenant issues?

As a property manager, you are the tenant complaint department. So, your first question might be, “how will this impact my day-to-day work?” or “how will this impact my tenants?” My goal is to make it as seamless as possible for commercial property managers, so we step in to help.

Essentially, we raise our hands to handle communication and outreach to tenants for the solar project. We go and meet upfront with tenants on your behalf. We interview and ask them their pain points. “What time of the day is power critical for you? What are the hot buttons?” Most importantly, we make sure everyone is on the same page and we communicate.

What’s your philosophy working with tenants?

I think the main thing is to be proactive and make a plan to reduce tenant impact. It’s the same thing for any other project at the property. We simply want to get in and get out as soon as possible, so we look for cooperation on both sides. Because we have extensive real estate experience, we can foresee issues and work with tenants to make it an easier process. Plus, we already work with tenants in our own buildings, so we can be proactive before issues arise.

How does construction impact the property?

We typically have equipment at the property for a few weeks, and that timing depends on the size of the solar project. This begins with staging areas in the parking lot to store materials and a forklift. In terms of noise, you would hear some noise on the roof, but it’s not going to be loud. People are walking around, but not slamming things down.

How do you install solar on a roof?

Our crews start by putting a slip sheet on top of the roof. We use the same material that is already there, such as EPDM, PVC, or TPO. Then, we install an aluminum racking structure that holds ballast blocks to keep the system in place above the slip sheets. This keeps the system in place without impacting the roof. Because of the thickness and extra protection, this can actually prolong the life of the roof.

What maintenance do you have over time?

Maintenance-wise, it’s an easy system to maintain. Solar is kind of a dumb system because it has no moving parts. The modules create power and that goes to an inverter to create the same AC power that you use in your building. The only real maintenance that comes up is cleaning the panels. We come in with a power wash or robot, as needed. This typically happens once per year in the spring after the pollen goes away. Otherwise, it is little things like a bird’s nest. We also have a remote monitoring system that allows us to always check on the solar project.

How does solar impact property budgets and leasing?

A landlord wants to keep people in the building because it costs money to rotate tenants. We try to help landlords keep tenants by lowering the operating expenses (OPEX). By lowering OPEX, you can actually have a positive impact on base rent.

For example, properties all have their common area and maintenance costs (CAM). That includes snow removal, lighting, plowing, and other items. From a tenant perspective, if you are 25% of the building, you incur 25% of the CAM. When OPEX is high, brokers can’t ask for more in rent. For example, if rent is $12 per square foot and CAM is $8 per square foot, landlords cannot ask for $13 in rent because $8 is too high for CAM. If its $6 for CAM, then maybe it can go up.

Rent is where landlords make their money. One huge benefit of solar is that by lowering OPEX, landlords could ask for more rent. Electric charges from solar are much less than they would be from the utility.

How does the process start?

It really just starts with us checking out your property to see if it makes sense for solar. We look at your roof, your utility bills, and how costs are structured with tenants. Simply reach out and we can get that process going to give you a proposal.

About Colin McGuckin

Colin is an accomplished real estate and construction professional with over 15 years of experience in property operations, construction, capital expenditure management, budgeting, and site evaluation. He holds real estate licenses in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well as a New Jersey Black Seal license, HVAC systems certification, and OSHA 10 certification. He is currently obtaining his Haag commercial roof certification. Colin holds a degree from Rider University. 

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Now is the time to add solar as a tenant.

A combination of Federal and state-level incentives is creating a unique opportunity to earn high lease rates for solar on your property. Learn how Nessel Energy’s Rooftop Revenue Program℠ can benefit your organization.

Contact us using the form at the link below or by calling (214) 702-6623

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Nessel Energy provides sustainable energy solutions for real estate owners and developers through our unique Rooftop Revenue Program℠. We leverage over 20 years of real estate experience across commercial, multifamily, and industrial properties to provide unparalleled energy advising and services.

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