The Complete Guide to Commercial Solar Panels Written by Tom Gill Reviewed by Charlie Clissitt Updated on 9 June 2023 ✔ Commercial solar panels can significantly reduce energy costs✔ A 30 kilowatt system can save you on average £5,200 each year✔ Maintenance for commercial solar panel systems is very lowPrice cap increases have seen business' energy bills rise to unprecedented heights while the cost of solar panels falls rapidly, making renewable energy solutions such as commercial solar panels more appealing than ever.Installing solar panels on your business premises will reduce your costs, increase your profits, and raise the competitiveness of your business. If you don't go green, you risk losing ground on your rivals.We've covered everything you need to know about commercial solar panels and how they can help your business — however big or small.Ready to get commercial solar panels for your business? Fill in our simple form and after entering a few details, our trusted suppliers will contact you with bespoke quotes. Where do you want to install solar panels? Roof Ground Both Other / not sure Get started What's on this page? 01 What are commercial solar panels? 02 How much do commercial solar panels cost? 03 Are there any grants to help businesses buy commercial solar panels? 04 When will your business break even on solar panel? 05 What are the best ways to finance commercial solar panels? 06 Pros and cons of commercial solar panels 07 How many commercial solar panels does your business need? 08 What are the requirements for installing commercial solar panels? 09 Are solar panels right for your business? 10 How popular are commercial solar panels in the UK? 11 Next steps 12 FAQs What are commercial solar panels?Commercial solar panels are used to fulfil the energy needs of businesses.They’re typically bigger than solar panels used for homes, averaging at 77 inches by 39 inches, compared to roughly 66 inches by 40 inches for residential panels.Commercial solar panels are a popular choice for large-scale solar installations, such as those used to power industrial facilities. Also, they can be used to power both industrial processes and offices.What are the benefits of a business switching to solar?Switching to solar power will cut down your business's utility bills, reduce your carbon footprint, and improve your ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) score.On the emissions front, the average medium-sized business will see an annual CO2 reduction of 9.9 tonnes. It's 5.8 tonnes for small businesses, and considering the 15 tonnes of CO2 typically released by SMEs each year, it's clear getting solar panels is a hugely effective step in shrinking this.Your carbon footprint is a calculation of the amount of greenhouse gases your business puts into the atmosphere. Reducing it is a great way to signal to customers that you care about the environment.It'll also work to increase you ESG score, which can be a great signifier to both customers and future employees that your business is one that cares about the environment. As the saying goes, there can be no economy without ecology, so businesses getting ahead to improve environmental practices will be the businesses that win overall.On average, a medium-sized commercial solar array of 30 kWp (kilowatts peak, the peak potential kilowatt output of a solar panel under perfect conditions) will cut your electricity bills by £5,200 per year. Maintenance for solar panels is low too — keep the panels clear and free of debris, and they’ll keep generating clean, cheap power for 25 years or more. Where do you want to install solar panels? Roof Ground Both Other / not sure Get started How much do commercial solar panels cost?You'll typically spend between £16,000 and £70,000 for a commercial solar panel system for a small to medium-sized business.Commercial solar panel systems can get larger and more expensive however, depending on available roof space and business needs.Factors such as the amount of energy needed and the power of the panels also affect the total cost.You should first work out whether solar panels are right for your business. Start by looking at your utility bills, which will give you an idea of how much energy you're using and what you're being charged per kilowatt.The average medium-sized business in the UK uses around 30,000 to 50,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity each year. It's 15,000 to 30,000 kWh for small businesses.You should expect to pay roughly £1,000 per kilowatt for your commercial solar panel system.Here’s a table showing different sizes for commercial solar panel systems, with typical costs included as well.System size in kilowatt peakAverage cost (including VAT)Average number of panels10 kWp£12,0003025 kWp£25,0007550 kWp£47,500150100 kWp£90,000300Want to learn more about solar panel prices? Head to our solar panel cost page. Are there any grants to help businesses buy commercial solar panels?There are no nationwide government grants for businesses looking to get commercial solar panels, and no hint of any plans for grants on the horizon.The government does however offer region-specific grants to businesses. For example, the Low Carbon Workspaces grant provides support for businesses in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Luton, and Milton Keynes.By switching to energy-efficient measures, including solar panels, businesses in these areas can get a grant of £5,000.Businesses looking for solar panels in Dorset get an even better deal. With the Low Carbon Dorset scheme, you can get grants for up to 40% of project costs, between £5,000–£250,000.There are also additional tax benefits for companies that install commercial solar panels, in the form of capital allowances. When will your business break even on solar panels?The average time to break even on solar panels is 12.9 years, regardless of the system's size. It'll almost certainly be quicker for businesses however, because most businesses operate during the day which means they can take better advantage of the free electricity.Homes with solar panels typically won't be using the free electricity generated during the sun's peak intensity, which makes the break-even point longer than it would for businesses.Another way to shrink the break-even point is to export excess energy via the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG).Businesses with solar panel systems that have a capacity of 5 megawatts (MW) or less are allowed to sell energy back to the UK’s National Grid.Most SEG tariffs pay between 3.5 and 15p per kilowatt hour (kWh), so you're looking at hundreds rather than thousands of pounds – but on the other hand, it's free money. What are the best ways to finance commercial solar panels?Power purchasing agreements (PPA) are financing arrangements that let businesses purchase solar power without upfront costs.A business can rent its roof and purchase discounted solar electricity, instead of investing in a solar system to call their own.Businesses get all the advantages of solar, including the cost savings, without having to actually buy a solar system outright. And when the business wants to buy the solar system, a power purchasing agreement lets them do so.Many PPAs give businesses the solar system at the end of a 25-year period, at no extra cost – which is great. Older generations of solar panels have a lifespan of 25–30 years, but new models can keep going for 40–50 years. Pros and cons of commercial solar panels Pros Lower energy bills Reduced carbon emissions Increased ESG score Greater energy independence Opportunity to profit via the SEG Potentially boosts the value of commercial property Cons Can take years to recoup costs Takes a lot of roof space, so not viable for every business A smart meter is necessary to profit from exported electricity How many commercial solar panels does your business need?The average medium-sized business would need 142 solar panels to meet the typical 37,500 kWh consumed annually. This would take up 284 square metres (m2) of roof space.It'd be 84 solar panels for most small businesses, who consume an average of 22,500 kWh each year, and a system this size would use 168m2 of roof space.The precise scale of your commercial solar panel installation will depend on how big your business is – small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) won’t need as big a system as a huge office block.It also depends on the nature of your business. A law firm won’t use as much power as an industrial facility, so even if both buildings are the same size, the amount of solar power needed will be different.You can start roughly calculating what size solar system you might need by working out the following:Your electricity consumptionThe local sunlight yield (i.e. daylight hours)The size of your roof What are the requirements for installing commercial solar panels?As long as you have enough roof space, you’ll be allowed to install solar panels on your business’s building/s with little issue.Another option is to install a solar farm, which will need local council approval. Whether you can get approval for a large-scale commercial solar system depends on factors including:The visual impact of the solar systemTo what extent it will benefit the local communityWhat impact the solar system will have on the surrounding ecosystemLocal electricity grid connectivity (can the grid accommodate a large-scale solar system?)Do you need planning permission for commercial solar panels?Most businesses can benefit from Permitted Development Rights, which means they'll have little issue installing roof-mounted solar panel systems, regardless of size.It's more challenging if a business wants to install a ground-mounted solar panel system however, as any system larger than nine m² will require planning permission.If a ground-based installation is smaller than nine m², it must meet the following conditions to avoid needing planning permission:The solar array must be no more than four metres highThe solar array must be installed more than five metres from the property boundaryIf located within a conservation area or a world heritage site, the solar array can’t face a highway or be visible from a highwayAs with anything that might need planning permission, you should always check before you agree to get anything done.For more information on the legal details, the UK government’s Town and Country Planning Order has everything your business needs to know. Are solar panels right for your business?Solar panels should be the go-to energy generating solution for businesses across the UK. Not only do they help save money on energy costs, but they also help promote your business as a green pioneer.The majority of businesses operate in the daytime, so it makes financial sense to switch to solar energy. And even if you operate at night, combining solar panels with solar batteries means you could continue powering your business after dark.As renewable energy becomes an ever-greater share of the UK’s energy supply, more and more businesses will make the switch. Get ahead of the curve and use solar panels to power your business.Here are some questions you should ask yourself before purchasing commercial solar panels for your business:Are my energy bills too high?Can I afford the upfront cost?Could I lease a solar panel system?Is a Power Purchasing Agreement right for my business?Will going green benefit my business' public image? How popular are commercial solar panels in the UK?More and more businesses across the UK are adopting commercial solar panels, with big names such as Tesco making the switch to clean, solar electricity. The supermarket chain worked with energy supplier EDF to install 5 megawatts (MW) of solar power across 14 of its stores.This was made up of over 15,000 solar panels which in the first year of installation generated an impressive 4,235 MWh. Tesco would've saved over £675,000 in energy bills, and reduced CO2 emissions by well over 1,000 tonnes, according to our calculations.Another example is Novatech, one the UK's largest retailers of computer products. Through Infinity Energy, the Portsmouth-based business installed a 404.3 kWp solar panel system and was set up to save £21,000 each on energy bills.According to Infinity Energy, the installation will make a profit of £1,101,356 after 20 years for Novatech, and the entire project will pay itself back after just 6.4 years. Next stepsCommercial solar panels are already powering businesses across the UK, with all the benefits that solar energy brings.Lower energy bills, reduced carbon emissions, and the positive public image that comes with green credentials make commercial solar panels well worth the investment.If you’re ready to find solar panels for your business, we can help. Just fill in this simple form and our trusted suppliers will get in touch with bespoke quotes. FAQs Are solar panels worth it for commercial property? Solar panels for commercial property are a great idea, because you'll save money on your energy bills, reduce your carbon emissions, and increase your ESG score. It means businesses are less reliant on external energy suppliers, and can divert funds otherwise spent on keeping the lights on towards other elements of the business. What are the best solar panels for business? The best solar panels for businesses are monocrystalline solar panels, because they're the most efficient. They're more expensive, but it also means that they take up less space to generate the equivalent power of the less-efficient polycrystalline solar panels.Monocrystalline panels also tend to last longer than polycrystalline panels, typically 25–40 years versus 25–30 years. That makes them a safer investment for business who'll rest easier knowing they don't need to replace them quite as quickly as they would with a polycrystalline solar panel installation. Can I put solar panels on my commercial building? Whatever the size of your business, it can benefit from solar panels and you'll be pleased to know that you won't face many hurdles putting them on your roof. Solar panels on commercial buildings come under Permitted Development Rights, meaning it's usually totally fine to install them without needing planning permission.If you have a ground-mounted solar panel system on the other hand, you'll typically need planning permission if it exceeds nine square metres. Written by: Tom Gill Writer Tom joined The Eco Experts over a year ago and has since covered the carbon footprint of the Roman Empire, profiled the world’s largest solar farms, and investigated what a 100% renewable UK would look like. Tom has a particular interest in the global energy market and how it works, including the ongoing semiconductor shortage, the future of hydrogen, and Cornwall's growing lithium industry. Reviewed by: Charlie Clissitt Editor Charlie has been researching and writing about the home energy market for over five years, and he has been the editor of The Eco Experts since 2021. Charlie's thoughts on solar panels have seen him featured in various publications, including The Times, Ideal Home, and Grand Designs Magazine. Ever since he can remember, Charlie has worried about the planet, and he one day dreams of owning a solar power farm.