Should your Business Invest in Solar Panels in 2020

You may be asking yourself whether it would be worth your business investing in solar panels. If you have an empty roof space, want to reduce your carbon footprint and save money on your energy bills it would be well worth spending some of your time investigating the options open to you.

Whether your business is large or small there are compelling reasons to invest in solar energy. As the cost of energy rises putting your roof space to good use can be a sensible decision for your business. Many commercial organisations have already realised the big savings that can be made from installing solar panels to supply your business with electricity. All you have to do is utilise the roof space on your commercial premises, agricultural buildings, factories, warehouses, schools or hospitals, and install solar power generators to start generating solar energy.

Commercial solar panels can make a real difference to your business by generating free, green electricity during daytime hours that can be used on site, lowering your business demand for energy from the grid and potentially saving thousands of pounds on energy bills. Ideally you would use all the solar power onsite, however any surplus power can be sold to the grid which has the added bonus of generating extra income. For larger business solar panel and commercial rooftop installations you can achieve a reasonable return on investment, despite the Feed in Tariff coming to an end, particularly if you consume a significant amount of electricity during daylight hours. What’s more, solar panels have no moving parts, so ongoing maintenance costs are minimal. High users of generated electricity will benefit the most. Solar PV is in fact a reliable and safe investment vehicle that provides returns exceeding those of traditional low risk financial products.

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With energy prices predicted to sharply rise in the next 10 years purchasing commercial solar panels can make financial forecasting much easier by allowing you to effectively forward buy your electricity at a set price. Installing solar panels stabilises your electricity supply and can reduce cooling overheads in the summer.

Another important point to consider is your energy security. The National Grid is currently struggling to generate considerable electricity supply to meet the UK’s growing energy demands. At the same time the government has introduced mandatory energy audits for large businesses via the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) and are considering future energy usage regulation, making independent solar installations an excellent backup measure.

By taking your Business’s energy solution into your own hands and generating your own solar energy you will emit less CO2 into the atmosphere, reducing your carbon footprint considerably as well as increasing your company’s sustainable credentials and improving your business reputation. Solar panels are a fantastic way of displaying your green values in a prominent and public-facing way.

If you are looking at installing a large-scale commercial solar panel PV array such as a solar field, you will require planning approval from the local authority. The final planning decision will be based on a number of different factors including visual impact (glare, etc.), the potential benefits it could bring to the local community, the array’s impact on the local ecosystem, as well as the local electricity grid connectivity. There will be a planning application fee, usually dependent on the size of the proposed site, each local authority will have its own guidelines on this. The LA will also conduct a site visit when assessing a planning application, as well as gauging the local reaction to the proposals.

Planning permission will also be required if your solar PV system is intended for installation on a listed building or a site designated as a scheduled ancient monument or world heritage site.

Due to advancements in technology the cost of solar panels has plummeted in the last 10 years. The type of solar panel system that you require will depend on the size of the commercial business which will determine the range of wattage and price.

The most popular systems for businesses have a 5-9kW output but a commercial operation with large spaces of land may require a system with an output of 25kW to even as much as 200kW.

A minimum upfront investment of around £10,000 is required for a small commercial system to cover the supply and installation of solar panels, inverter, isolators, cabling, relevant testing, certification and registering with regulatory bodies and your electricity company.

You may choose not to invest capital and there are various different funding options available. If your business qualifies you may even be eligible for free commercial solar panels. Renewable Energy Hub can help you look at what is available.

Some energy suppliers may offer power purchase agreements (PPAs) to businesses who meet qualifying criteria. With this type of agreement, solar panels are installed on your roof at no cost to your business, while the electricity generated is purchased back from the funder at a rate that is substantially cheaper than that offered by your existing supplier, saving you thousands of pounds in electricity bills.

Bearing in mind the high upfront cost involved especially in the case of large-scale solar projects, the feasibility, development and planning processes for large-scale solar projects are usually lengthy and very detailed. Substantial building or landscaping work may also be required.  As with any other solar PV installation, in order for a site to be suitable it must usually meet certain conditions, such as:

  • few obstacles (trees, hills, buildings, etc) which could cause shading issues and reduce the output of the array
  • flat or south sloping ground is optimal
  • there must be access for initial construction and regular maintenance
  • some PV developers may set a minimum area of land for it to be financially viable
  • there must be a local connection to the electricity grid
  • the proposed site must not be susceptible to floods
  • planning permission is unlikely to be granted for proposed sites located in protected areas
  • there must be a local connection to the electricity grid

Deciding to go solar isn’t a decision you make in a day. Indeed, it certainly shouldn’t be done without thorough evaluation and careful assessment of both the pros and cons.

In most cases, the benefits of going solar far outweigh the drawbacks and understanding both will help you make wiser, more confident choices for your business.

Find out more about solar here. 

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