Q: What risks should our ministry know about owning or leasing solar panels?

A: Some insurance, legal, and tax issues can arise when you own or lease solar panels. Here are eight issues to explore before using this form of alternative energy.

1. Determine the ministry’s contractual responsibilities. If your ministry will lease solar panels from an alternative energy producer provider, understand the obligations involved. Must the ministry insure the panels against damage, loss, or theft? Will the ministry face a penalty for not generating as much energy as promised? Are there other requirements?

2. Ensure the ministry has the appropriate insurance coverage. Solar panel exposures may not be covered by your ministry’s current insurance policy. If your ministry is responsible for insuring the panels, discuss coverage with your agent.

3. Confirm with an engineer that the ministry’s roof is structurally sound. If the panels will be placed on the roof, an engineer should confirm that the added weight won’t cause the roof to collapse under adverse conditions, such as snow, ice, or wind.

4. Choose experienced contractors with appropriate insurance. Make sure that the contractor installing your solar panels is experienced, licensed, and carries appropriate insurance coverage. Brotherhood Mutual’s Hiring a Contractor Checklist can help keep you on track.

5. Beware of solar panel theft. Solar panels are expensive, which makes them prime targets for thieves. Before installation, store panels securely. After installation, reduce the risk of theft by installing motion detecting lights or security cameras. You can also chain the panels together or install an alarm system.

6. Be alert for potential tax payments the ministry may owe. If your ministry is paid for generating excess solar power, selling alternative energy credits, or leasing part of its property for solar panels, this money may be subject to the unrelated business income tax. Read Brotherhood Mutual’s article, “How Unrelated Business Income May Affect Your Ministry” for more information.

7. Prevent injury by enclosing electrical equipment. Any equipment that could injure someone because it gathers or transmits electricity should be properly enclosed and include warnings.

8. Maintain solar panels for optimum performance. Ministry leaders should be aware that dust from wind, rain, snow, and leaves can prevent solar panels from converting all of the potential solar power to electricity. Clean panels regularly with mild soap and water.

Make sure that the contractor installing your solar panels is experienced, licensed, and carries appropriate insurance coverage.

Recommended Resources

If you found this information helpful, you might be interested in these other resources from Brotherhood Mutual:

Learn more details about solar panels by reading our article, “Considering Solar Power for Your Ministry?”

Visit our Safety Library to find other articles, publications and tools on wide range of topics relevant to your ministry.

*Important information: Brotherhood Mutual is pleased to provide Legal Assist as a complimentary resource. The services we offer through Legal Assist are intended to provide general legal information to our current and prospective policyholders.

The information we provide is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. Accordingly, no attorney/client relationship is created through this process, and no legal advice will be provided. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.