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A Complete Guide to Commercial Solar Panels for Businesses in the UK

Many businesses are switching to commercial solar panels because of multiple benefits – from cost saving to efficiency to a reduced carbon footprint.

It might be time for you to install a commercial solar PV system for your business as an investment and see improving results in the long run!

We've prepared a guide to help you get started. This article contains all you need to know about a commercial solar PV system in easy-to-understand terms!

What Are Commercial Solar Panels?

Commercial solar panels are an alternative to fossil fuels, the traditional way to generate electricity. The generation of power is achieved using renewable energy that is more sustainable and 'clean.'

Each commercial solar panel comprises PV cells that absorb sunlight and create an electric field. As the electrons become charged, electricity is produced.

Commercial solar panels work similarly to residential ones. The primary differences are the size, price, and energy produced and saved.

Since commercial buildings are on a bigger scale, commercial solar panels come in more significant dimensions (at least 77 in. x 39 in.).

They're also more expensive as an investment but produce and save more clean energy than residential solar panels.

Why Use a Commercial Solar Panel System for Your Business?

There are fundamental factors that will significantly benefit a company if it uses commercial solar panels. Some are as follows:

1. It's a Sustainable Business Strategy

Sustainability is crucial for most businesses, especially in modern times. Decisions need to be long term, and we must ensure we can sustain the energy demand moving forward.

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    Commercial solar panels are sustainable. Once installed, you can rely on these to produce your clean energy without relying on unsustainable electricity consumption.

    Commercial solar panels last approximately 25-30 years, depending on their maintenance. You can certainly get a high ROI before you need to replace them.

    2. It Helps With Financial Savings

    It is acknowledged that the up-front cost of solar panels for businesses is relatively high, especially if you have multiple community buildings to fund.

    Many business owners are surprised by these prices and end up not installing these panels.

    However, it's vital to point out that the initial energy costs are WORTH IT because in the long haul, you can have lower energy and electricity bills. This is because you're not getting electricity from the National Grid.

    The financial benefits also extend to the excess electricity generated. You can store it in social battery storage for your use or send it back to the National Grid (and they'll even compensate you!).

    3. It Reduces Your Business Carbon Footprint

    Installing solar PV significantly reduces your carbon footprint because you’re no longer burning fossil fuels. You're also utilising a natural resource: solar power.

    Thereare fewer emissions of greenhouse gases and overall low maintenance is required, which is the perfect energy solution for businesses that want to be carbon neutral.

    Solar panels, for business or not, have significant environmental benefits for the stakeholders.

    4. It's Good Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

    Regarding fewer carbon emissions, it's also part of a business's responsibility to use clean energy and reduce the environmental impact.

    More than saving on energy bills, responsible energy usage and promoting activities with minimal environmental impact is part of a business' responsibility.

    Additionally, low-carbon workspaces and commercial solar panel installations increase the value of your property or space.

    The green credentials are also good PR and improve the business image.

    5. It Works Perfectly With Business Operations

    Purchasing commercial solar panels is perfect for businesses because of time alignment. Most businesses operate from 9 AM to 5 PM when the sun is bright and shining.

    This is perfect for roof-mounted solar panels that can absorb as much solar power as possible and store it in solar batteries so that it can be used later on.

    6. It's a Good Investment

    Undeniably, the initial installation costs for commercial solar panels are high. Besides the cost of the solar PV system, there is also an installation fee, energy prices, the cost of arranging planning permission, etc.

    Installing a solar array is expensive and the preparation period takes up a lot of time.

    But it's all WORTH IT for the following reasons:

    • A sure future energy supply
    • A reduced carbon footprint
    • Outstanding natural beauty. Stable financial forecasting
    • Using renewable energy
    • Maximum efficiency

    How Efficient Are Commercial Solar Panels?

    Commercial solar panel efficiency depends on the brand and manufacturer you’ve chosen. But generally, solar panels in the UK are very efficient at around 20% to 30%.

    We must understand the limitations of solar panels since their primary source, the sun, is not present 24/7.

    Solar panel electricity generation isn't as strong during seasons with less sun or at night.

    Moreover, the solar system's efficiency depends on the solar panel installation and placement. Some questions to ask are the following:

    • Do you have suitable roof structures or roof slopes?
    • Do you have enough roof space for a solar array?
    • Is a ground-mounted array better suited for your company?
    • Do you have enough solar panels to power your building?

    The Benefits of Installing Commercial Solar Panels

    As mentioned before, installing solar panels has its advantages:

    • Lower energy bills
    • Usage of renewable energy (no waste!)
    • Decreased carbon footprint and carbon emissions
    • Low maintenance
    • Saves money in the long term
    • Energy security
    • Solar panels are long-lasting
    • You exercise good corporate social responsibility
    • You can sell excess energy

    The Disadvantages of Installing Commercial Solar Panels

    However, there are also some disadvantages to consider when it comes to solar panel installation:

    • A solar system is expensive
    • Not all sites allow solar panel installation
    • It requires a lot of roof space

    We'll discuss these downsides below.

    1. A Solar System Is Expensive

    Solar panels are NOT cheap, which explains why many companies still haven't switched to solar PV despite knowing its benefits.

    Not all businesses can spend that much to install solar panels, and so, despite the current interest, the switch has been slow.

    Solar PV should be seen as an investment because the cost savings come later. Fortunately, there are ways to help fund solar panel installation.

    One is the power purchase agreement (PPA), wherein a third-party developer owns the solar panels placed on your building's property. and the power generated.

    The business owner doesn't have the rights to the solar panels; instead, you're buying the solar electricity from the developer.

    It allows you to avoid up-front costs, but you also don't get the full benefits or return on investment in the future.

    2. Not All Sites Allow Solar Panel Installation

    Before installing commercial solar panels, it's vital to have planning permission first. Ask building consultants or whoever's in charge about the planning requirements.

    Some buildings may be old or are world heritage sites that won't be able to handle the mounting system.

    If your building is a part of a world heritage site, asking permission is essential.

    Ensure that you have everything under control before signing anything!

    3. Requires a Lot of Roof Space

    Solar panels need a bigger space to become efficient. Regarding permission, there are limitations to the extent of the installation. Some examples are:

    • Roof-mounted installations must not protrude beyond 20cm
    • Roof installations must be further than 1 m away from the edge of the wall joint

    If you don't have enough roof space, or if it's not plausible to install the panels, you can try ground-mounted solar panels. As the name suggests, these are installed on the ground.

    Follow the industry-leading advice and the best companies for good advice. Regret is the last thing you want when installing these expensive panels!

    How Much Do Commercial Solar Panels Cost?

    The typical costs of solar panels for businesses are approximately £15,000 to £100,000, depending on the size and capacity. Here's a sample chart for reference:

    • 10 kW = £15,000
    • 20 kW = £30,000
    • 50 kW = £50,000
    • 100 kW = £100,000

    Of course, these are only estimates. The exact cost will depend on the kind, quality, and materials used.

    How Much Are the Commercial Solar Panel Installation Costs?

    Again, the installation costs will vary, but a good range is around £6,000 to £10,000. Some already include the fee overall, while some charge separately.

    Installation isn't easy and requires advanced skills to ensure the correct process.

    Invest in good developers and installers to avoid constant repairs, which are more expensive in the long run.

    How Much Are the Maintenance Costs for Business Solar Panels?

    The maintenance of solar panels is simple. Once installed, there's no need for extensive procedures unless there are damages.

    Maintenance includes cleaning, inspecting, and health checks. We recommend a monthly check-up to catch damages early. Usually, this only costs £21.24 to £24.99 per month.

    Are There Grants for Commercial Solar PV Systems?

    The UK encourages businesses and residences to have solar panels through government grants. We'll discuss the most prominent ones below:

    1. ECO4

    ECO4 stands for the fourth phase of the Energy Company Obligation scheme. Its main objective is to improve energy efficiency in low-income houses.

    £4 billion has been allotted for ECO4 to cover the period April 2022 to 2026. The grant will be given to UK homeowners chosen by the council.

    2. SEG

    The SEG became effective in January 2020. Homeowners with surplus energy can send the electricity back to the grid in exchange for compensation.

    This is a win-win for multiple stakeholders since:

    • No electricity/energy is wasted
    • Owners can earn extra money from their electricity supply
    • Others can benefit from this renewable energy
    • Because of the good returns, more owners will be encouraged to install solar panels

    3. VAT Reduction

    From April 2022 to March 2027, there will be 0% VAT for solar panels from installation to the actual cost. Removing VAT is the government's way of encouraging people to participate.

    Do I Need Planning Permission for Commercial Solar Panels?

    Generally, planning permission isn't needed if all the circumstances are normal. However, some conditions require you to get it. Some of these are the following:

    • The proposed site is historical, ancient, or unique
    • Electricity generation across the entire site exceeds one megawatt (1 MW)
    • The panels will protrude more than 20 cm from the external surface of the wall
    • The site is a listed building or area
    • The solar panel's highest point exceeds the roof's highest point

    Other conditions would require planning permission.

    We suggest consulting an expert near your area or your building to be safe.

    Remember that these requirements are for safety. Compliance will go a long way!

    What's the Best Solar Panel for Businesses?

    There are three primary types of solar panels: polycrystalline, monocrystalline, and thin film:

    • A monocrystalline panel is the most expensive option among the three. It's made of a single crystal, making the photovoltaic activity smoother and more efficient.
    • A polycrystalline panel, on the other hand, is better for residential use.
    • A thin film panel is more for budget-friendly usage that doesn't require the highest efficiency rate.

    For businesses, you want to prioritise EFFICIENCY. You want the flow of electricity to be smooth and seamless. Though it's more expensive at first, it's a worthwhile option.

    Therefore, while all the choices are efficient, we would recommend monocrystalline panels for commercial use.

    Conclusion: Are Solar Panels Worth It for a Business?

    Solar panels are worth it for businesses. It's an investment that promises great returns in the long run and provides a more environmentally friendly alternative for added efficiency.

    Additionally, the government is pushing us to subscribe to one – which says a lot. They offer various grants which are a great incentive to make the change.

    Research more about it and give it a shot!

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    Mark McShane
    Content Writer
    Mark McShane is a seasoned professional in the solar industry and the owner of Skills Training Group, a leading provider of solar training and education. With years of experience in the field, Mark has developed a deep understanding of the latest trends, technologies and best practices in the industry. His expertise and passion for solar energy have helped countless professionals develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the fast-growing field of solar energy. Whether you’re an aspiring solar professional or an experienced industry veteran, Mark is an excellent resource for anyone looking to enhance their skills and knowledge of the solar industry.
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