Choosing Solar PV Panels For Your Business

8th July 2022

As part of our Net Zero service to members, Professional Energy Purchasing (PEP) explain the key things to consider and benefits of Solar PV systems.

The impact of spiralling energy costs and the desire to become greener has made Solar PV a popular choice with businesses.

Powered by natural sunlight, it’s one of the simplest ways you can reduce energy costs and carbon emissions at the same time. 

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels are generally made from silicon which absorbs sunlight and creates a flow of electricity. This is then taken away by cables into a distribution board which converts the direct current (DC) to an alternating current (AC) needed to power your building.

Fortunately, the cells in the panels don’t need direct sunlight to generate power and will work even on cloudy days which is obviously good news for most of the UK. As you’d expect though, the stronger the sunshine the more electricity that’s generated, with each panel in strong sunlight generating on average 200-350W of energy.

Is Solar PV right for my business?

There are a few key things to consider before deciding if Solar PV is right for your business.

Where is the best place to install Solar PV panels?

The most ideal setting for solar PV to achieve maximum generation from sunlight is on a good-sized, south-facing roof area.  A 10-degree south-facing pitch on the roof will also perform better than a flat roof, although you can install concrete ballasts to achieve the same results.

The structural quality of the roof is also a crucial factor. Most new roofs which are up 20 years old are usually ok, whilst older roofs might not be in good enough condition to hold the weight of the panels.  Modern materials such as corrugated steel is also much easier to attach the panels to than older materials like slate.

Clearly, not everyone will have suitable roof space, so another option is to install free-standing panels. Often these can prove to be too expensive once you’ve built in the price to dig out and concrete them into the ground.

How much do commercial solar panels cost?

The biggest expense is for the panels themselves, with the cost for an average ‘Solar PV system’ varying between £10,000-£70,000 for small to medium-sized businesses. 

On top of that, the location of where you can install the solar PV panels including any additional access costs will impact on the overall investment you’ll need to make.

These costs will be offset by any savings you’ll make from your current electricity source, with paybacks normally taking around 7-9 years. But with electricity prices continuing to raise the payback period can be as low as 3 years.

We also recommend looking for any grants and schemes available to help with the outlay. The government and local authorities are constantly introducing new schemes to help the UK hit its Net Zero 2050 target.    

Do you need planning permission?

Most roof-mounted solar panel installations are allowed under permitted development so full planning permission is usually not necessary. For ground-mounted panels, you might need planning permission before installing solar panels depending on where they are to be installed. We can help with these permissions if they are required.

How much energy do solar PV systems generate?

A panel generates on average 270 to 450W but this depends on the location of your business (with the south benefitting from sunnier weather) and types of panels installed.

You’ll need to understand how much electricity your business currently uses to give you an indication of what you’ll need.

Integrating your solar panel system with a solar battery storage solution will help to maximise the electricity generated and retain the power on site. This would save you money, provide power at night, and make you less reliant on the grid. We recommend having an energy efficiency audit first which will provide a full site analysis to make sure you get the best value from the extra investment. 

How much disruption will an installation cause?

It normally takes around 3 days to install a solar PV system.  The main disruption will be for 2-3 hours when the panels are connected to the building’s electrical distribution panel but that can be completed over the weekend to minimise interruptions to operations.

How much carbon can I save through solar PV systems?

Each megawatt-hour produced by solar moves electricity from the grid which could come from coal or natural gas. 

The overall emissions saved through solar power depends on the consumption, project size and the energy source that is being displaced.  To give an example, we recently installed an 84-panel solution will save the client 4.6 tonnes of CO2 every year which is equivalent to 3 hot air balloons full.

You could also buy green energy for any electricity not generated through the solar panels to offset your carbon emissions.

Need funding support?

Current grants and schemes that can help you cover the cost of installing a solar PV system include:

Smart Export Guarantees (SEG) - businesses that generate their own electricity from solar panels can sell any surplus energy they don’t use back to the grid.

You might also be entitled to a Climate Change Levy tax rebate which PEP can investigate and support you with.

What are the next steps?

Chamber Energy Partners PEP provide a complete energy management service to help members make the right choices for their individual businesses. 

They can provide a free initial consultation followed by a full site survey and support every step of the way.

To find out more about the Net Zero service offered by Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and PEP, visit the website: www.scci.org.uk/netzero  or contact a member of the team at Sheffield Chamber of Commerce by calling 0114 201 8888.

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