Commercial Solar Panels Guide

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    Guide Author

    James Longley

    Managing Director

    min read
    Last Updated July 6, 2022

    As climate change increasingly dominates the global news agenda, impacting countries all over the world, businesses are becoming progressively more open to different forms of renewable energy. This desire to make business more ‘green’ by reducing carbon footprints, combined with the incentives provided by government schemes and initiatives for those businesses that actively seek ways of lowering their emissions, has seen companies all over the UK invest in renewable energy.

    Proving the most popular form of renewable energy adopted by UK businesses is solar power. Solar panels use solar cells to convert the sun’s light into electricity or heat energy without producing any carbon emissions. Through the use of commercial solar panels, businesses are able to produce some or all of their own energy, access helpful government incentives to assist renewable business and, in some cases, even make money through selling excess energy back to their renewable energy provider.

    But what benefits do commercial solar panels bring to your business, just how much can they help the environment, how much do they actually cost and what financial help is available to those businesses looking to take advantage of this form of renewable energy? For the answers to all these questions and more, read on.

    However, looking at the bigger picture, the installation of solar panels will always save your business money in the long term. This is because the average cost of producing commercial solar PV energy is 5p per kWh, while purchasing the same amount of energy from a supplier costs most businesses between 11 and 15p. Not only do solar panels provide the opportunity to make an instant saving here, with energy prices set to double over the next 10 years, the opportunity to save more and more is likely to increase as time goes by. While your primary concerns will likely surround repaying your initial investment, it’s important to remember that in the long term the savings solar panels can make for your business could be very significant.

    According to The Eco Experts, small businesses using a 4kW system in optimal conditions could save up to £16,000 over 20 years. Similarly, larger businesses that fit 10kW systems could save close to £2,000 a year, while businesses that can install 50kW systems could save £10,000 per year, providing conditions are good.

    Reputational benefits of becoming a ‘green’ business

    An additional business benefit of installing commercial socal panels is the improved reputation that comes with becoming more environmentally responsible. Potential clients are becoming more aware of climate change and the impact it is having, causing them to increasingly look to businesses that are more eco-friendly in their approaches. Positive press and industry coverage of your new renewable energy regime can also boost your public image, with your new solar credentials increasing visibility and driving up business. Finally, being viewed as an early pioneer in green energy adoption through the use of commercial solar panels can also make a big impression with clients, stakeholders and potential future employees.

    What are the environmental benefits of using commercial solar panels?

    So, we now know what financial and reputational benefits solar panels can bring to your business, but how can solar panels for commercial buildings actually help the environment? Well, to put it simply, solar panels offer a way of providing some or all of the energy your business requires to function with a reduced (or a completely removed) dependence on fossil fuel-created energy. This in turn allows you to reduce your carbon footprint and do your small bit to slow down climate change and protect the environment.

    If you also look at the bigger picture and the knock-on effects that installing commercial solar panels might have, by becoming an adopter of green energy you are also promoting renewable energy to other businesses by showing it is a realistic and sustainable option. More businesses may opt to also change their energy consumption habits and look to ‘go green’ as a result, which can only be good for the environment.

     

    How much do commercial solar panels cost?

    The installation cost of solar panels will depend on two main factors; which system you opt for and its size, and whether or not you can take advantage of any schemes or initiatives on offer that can pay for or subsidise your costs.

    The most important factor when it comes to cost is which system you opt for – a system that uses PV panels or a commercial solar thermal energy system. A PV system is typically more expensive to install and works using the photovoltaic effect. This is to say, PV panels use solar cells to convert the sun’s light directly into electricity via a converter. This is a good system for those businesses that use a lot of electricity. Solar thermal technology, on the other hand, is slightly cheaper to install and makes use of solar panels that are connected to a boiler, water collector or immersion heater. These panels use the sun’s rays to heat a fluid, typically a mixture of water and glycol, into usable energy. These systems are ideal for businesses looking to reduce their heating bills in a sustainable way.

    The table below outlines the average cost for each system and offers a guideline for how long each will take to pay for itself, assuming you have not had any financial help from a government grant, scheme or initiative.

     

    Type of solar panel system Installation cost Average time for it to pay for itself
    Standard PV system £5,000 – £10,000 6 – 10 years
    Solar Thermal Energy £3,000 – £5,000 3 – 5 years

    Grants for solar panels on commercial buildings

    Before splashing out on your new commercial solar panels, it’s first worth finding out what government schemes you may be eligible for that can help pay for your solar panels once they have been installed. Although the government has offered numerous incentives for businesses in the past, such as the Feed-In Tariffs (FIT) Scheme and The Green Deal, there are currently no grants available for the installation of commercial solar panels. However, there are still two initiatives that can help your business once your panels are installed and operational. These are:

    The Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)

    Designed for those businesses that are looking to cut heating costs using renewable energy and ideal for companies that install solar thermal technology, the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) sees eligible businesses receive quarterly payments over 20 years based on the amount of heat they generate sustainably. These payments can help pay off the initial installation costs and make the prospect of going green more attractive. This scheme is scheduled to end on 31 March 2022.

    The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)

    Launched in January 2020, The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) is a government-initiated export tariff for UK businesses that make use of small-scale renewable energy sources, including solar panels. This scheme doesn’t provide your business with any money upfront, but once your panels are installed and operational, it allows you to essentially sell every kilowatt hour of unused, eligible electricity your business generates back to the National Grid via your licensed electricity supplier. This can speed up the process of paying off any installation costs and, in the long term, can see your business actually start to make a profit from selling any surplus electricity.

     

    For more information about the benefits of renewable energy and solar panels, or if you are looking to switch to a renewable energy provider today, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Whether you are looking to ‘go green’ or simply cut down your energy costs, Utility Bidder can help.

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