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The Complete Guide to Commercial Solar Panels

Commercial solar panels can reduce your carbon footprint and energy bills

A 30 kilowatt system can save you on average £5,400 each year

Maintenance for commercial solar panel systems is very low


Energy prices are rising, making it more appealing than ever for businesses to look to renewable energy solutions.

Commercial solar panels can reduce your business’s energy bills by 60–70% (Infinity Energy, 2022), making them one of the best solutions.

Our guide to commercial solar panels will give you everything you need to know – whatever the size of your company.

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.

Solar panels overlooking the city

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, are more expensive, and save more energy.

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 businesses and provide electricity to nearby residential properties.

 

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 corporate social responsibility.

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.

On average, a medium-sized commercial solar array of 30 kWp (kilowatts peak) will cut your electricity bills by £5,400 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 years to come.

Solar panels on a city roof

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 UK 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 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.

How much money will your business make from commercial solar panels?

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) allows businesses to export any excess energy generated and get paid for it, but there are limits as to how much energy can be exported.

It allows businesses to sell up to 5 megawatts (MW) of energy back to the UK’s National Grid.

Making money with the SEG sounds great on paper, but it only benefits small businesses.

Most SEG tariffs average between 3.5–7.5 pence per kilowatt hour (kWh), so even if you export the full 5 MW, you’ll only make £250 per year (assuming an average tariff of 5 pence per kWh).

What are the requirements for installing commercial solar panels?

As long as you meet the planning requirements (see below) and have enough roof space, you’ll be allowed to install solar panels on your business’s building/s.

An alternative 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 system

  • What impact the solar system will have on the surrounding ecosystem

  • Local electricity grid connectivity (can the grid accommodate a large-scale solar system?)

What size commercial solar panels do I need?

The scale of your commercial solar panel installations 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 consumption
  • The local sunlight yield (i.e. daylight hours)
  • The size of your roof

Here’s a table showing different sizes for commercial solar panel systems, with typical costs included as well:

System size in kilowatt peak
Cost (including VAT)
10 kWp
£16,260
25 kWp
£39,000
50 kWp
£78,000
100 kWp
£156,000

Do you need planning permission for commercial solar panels?

Most commercial solar panel systems are larger than nine square metres (m²), and will therefore require planning permission.

If your installation is smaller than nine square metres, you must meet the following conditions to avoid needing planning permission:

  • The solar array must be no more than four metres high
  • The solar array must be installed more than five metres from the property boundary
  • If located within a conservation area or a world heritage site, the solar array can’t face a highway or be visible from a highway

As 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.

Power purchasing agreements

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.

How popular are commercial solar panels in the UK?

No exact figures for the amount of businesses using solar panels are available. However, as of 2020, there are just under 500 solar farms operating in the UK. These are the five largest:

  • Shotwick solar park – 250 acres, 72.2 megawatts produced per year
  • Lynham solar farm – 213.3 acres, 69.8 megawatts produced per year
  • Owl’s Hatch solar park – 212 acres, 51.9 megawatts produced per year
  • Wroughton Airfield solar park – 165 acres, 50 megawatts produced per year
  • West Raynham solar farm – 225 acres, 49.8 megawatts produced per year

Next steps

Commercial 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.

Tom Gill Writer

Tom is a big fan of all things eco and has a passionate interest in how technology and localised projects can work together to make the world greener.

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