The rooftops of commercial buildings are revenue-laden resources that need harnessing, and there is funding to make it happen, explains Ian McMinn of Eco Mirage.
06 August 2018 | Ian McMinn
It is estimated that in the UK there is more than 70,000 acres of commercial roof space suitable for solar PV, with benefits including:
- No detrimental visual impact;
- Improved building EPC rating;
- Demonstration of a company's commitment to sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of its operations; and most crucially
- The activities taking place under these roofs provide the demand for the energy supplied by solar PV.
On-site demand with on-site generation is ideal for companies. By installing a system suitably sized to meet demand though solar PV, these businesses can become less reliant on the National Grid.
A solar PV system can turn a rooftop into an asset that provides a reliable and significant supply of electricity for 25+ years that won't get any more expensive.
Different installation options
Modern warehouses and business units often have flat or shallow pitched metal roofs - ideal for solar installations. Mounting systems and fixings are manufactured to suit most roof types, without undermining their integrity. And integrated solar panel systems are available for more sensitive sites and panels can be used on building façades as exterior cladding to give a modern look while generating energy.
Three key funding methods
Most commercial installers can do a desktop survey of a building's potential. There are three main funding methods for benefiting from solar PV.
- Usually offers the best return, but it requires the spare capital to invest in a system;
- All the benefits are retained;
- Up to 100 per cent savings on daytime electricity;
- Energy security;
- Reduced carbon output;
- Possibility to offset cost through annual investment allowance; and
- New system installations can receive the feed-in tariff for 20 years but, after April 2019, it will cease, so systems installed after that date will not qualify.
2. Asset finance
- Payments are met by the amount saved on electricity that would have been purchased from the grid;
- All the benefits of installing solar PV remain with the owner; and
- It is possible to offset payments against tax.
3. Power purchase agreements (PPAs)
- A popular and simple way to gain some of the benefits;
- These typically run for 20-25 years;
- A system is supplied, installed and maintained free;
- Electricity from the system is used and purchased at a lower rate than grid price, making an immediate saving;
- The price is usually linked to retail price index (RPI) increases so, as grid electricity price rises exceed RPI, savings from the system increase; and
- Access to PPA agreements is usually through installers that have links with renewable energy investors prepared to invest in projects that are designed and sized to give a guaranteed rate of return.
30kW system in a leisure centre in the South West - generates 26,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity and reduces annual CO2 levels by 10 tonnes.
50kW system in a Midlands-based building that contains six industrial units - generates 45,000kWh of electricity, which is sold to and used by the occupants, and reduces annual CO2 levels by 16 tonnes. The landlord will see an ROI in five years with another 20 years of generation.
84kW system in an apple storage facility in the South East to power refrigeration units - generates 67,000kWh of electricity and cuts annual CO2 levels by 24 tonnes.
150kW system in a North East manufacturing company - generates 10,000kWh and reduces annual CO2 levels by 39 tonnes.
140kW system installed for free at a distributor with a mission statement of reducing waste and environmental impact - contributed to organisation attaining ISO14001 environmental management, and reduced energy costs.
Ian McMinn is director of energy efficiency specialist Eco Mirage