Planning Permission for Commercial Solar Panels
Commercial Properties and Solar Panels
Large commercial properties across the UK are currently facing increasing pressure to lower their carbon emissions. They are being urged to do so by the government in order to help them to achieve carbon emission and renewable energy targets as set out in the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy act of 2006. Also, with the rising costs of electricity, many businesses are suffering from an increase in overheads.
Installing solar panels on a commercial property can help protect against future rises in fuels costs and will significantly save on running costs as well. In addition to this, businesses will be set to benefit from a 10-14% tax free inflation linked return when they register the solar panel installation with the government backed Feed in Tariff scheme. This scheme's payments are set to decrease over time, meaning the sooner you get an installation up and running the better off financially you will be. By installing solar panels on any currently unused roof space, a company can ensure every part of their premises is put to use in the most practical and cost effective way.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Contrary to popular belief, solar panels do not need constant direct sunlight in order for them to work. All they need is daylight. They work when the light hits the panels and the energy from the light is converted into electricity. The solar panel system will have to be set up so it connects to the national grid. The ideal roof space for a solar panel installation is south facing with no obstructions from overhanging trees and other buildings. The company that fits the installation will do a full survey of the intended roof space to make sure that it is suitable to hold the solar panels in place for a minimum of twenty five years, which is the length of time the solar panels are guaranteed for. The roof will need to have good means of access for fitting and maintenance purpose. Roof spaces which are unsuitable for the fitting of solar panels are asbestos and lead roofs.
If you think that you have a good intended space for the installation of solar panels, you can approach a local company to come and have a look and they can advise you on the best sort of installation for your premises. However, it is not just roof space that can be used. Some businesses will have also have space to fit a ground based system that can work just as successfully.
Up until recently, planning permission was not required for domestic properties but was required for commercial properties. As of 6th April 2012, this has been lifted. Commercial and agricultural properties no longer have to apply for planning permission to have a solar panel installation fitted. This applies to systems up to 50KWP for electricity and up to 45 kilowatts for thermal. If you have been put off by the long application process before or have previously been turned down for an installation, now is the time to act.
The only exception to this rule is if your commercial property is a listed building in which case planning permission will still be an issue. Also a ground mounted system that is less that 9m squared in area will no longer need planning permission. All you will need now is a DNO permission / approval for the system to the national grid which usually is not difficult or time consuming to obtain. If you have any doubts at all, the solar panel company and your local planning authority will advise you as to whether you are allowed to have the system fitted or not. But thanks to these new changes, most properties will get the go ahead needed.
There are, of course, a few rules which have to be followed to make sure you will not need planning permission. Commercial solar panel systems that are roof mounted should be no more than 20cm off the roof. On a flat roof you are allowed 1m off the roof in order that frames for the panels can also be fitted without need for permission. For ground mounted solar systems, only 9m squared in area is allowed without the need for planning permission. The ground mounted frame is not allowed to be more than 4m tall. Ground based systems must also be at least 5m away from the boundary of the property.
Unfortunately, the rules for a solar panel system that is ground mounted will mean that not a very large system is allowed to be fitted regardless of the space you have available. If you have a larger space that you wish to use, then it is probably still worthwhile seeking planning permission for the system.