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Solar PV – a quick guide

Is solar PV right for your business?

If you are looking for a cheaper way to power your business and a way to cut your carbon emissions, there are a number of options available to you, including solar photovoltaics, better known as solar PV. But is it the right technology for you?

This quick guide will talk you through the basics to help you make a decision. If you’re a Scottish SME, you could also ask our team for a free and impartial assessment.

What is solar PV and can I power my business with it?

Energy from the sun is probably the greenest renewable fuel source that can be harnessed to power your business. And it’s free.

All you need to take advantage of it is a number of PV cells combined into solar panels and an inverter to turn it into electricity you can use in your business – for your lighting, equipment and to heat water. 

Electricity you don’t use can be stored in a battery or, more commonly, sold to the National Grid.

Most PV systems are made up of panels that fit on top of your roof, although some businesses site their panels at ground level.

Using solar power is dependent on the weather, although the panels can and do work on overcast or snowy days, but they produce less electricity than during the height of summer.

The benefits of using solar PV in your business

The biggest plus to using solar energy is that it will never run out – at least, not for another five billion years, or thereabouts, when experts predict the sun will die.

Once you have everything installed, you will be receiving what is essentially free electricity. You will see a reduction in your energy bills and you could also receive money through the Smart Export Guarantee if you are producing more electricity than you need.

Not only will you pay less each month, but you will also be reducing your carbon emissions.

In comparison to other low carbon technologies like biomass and heat pumps, solar panels are low maintenance. They have no moving parts and only need an occasional wash (probably once or twice a year).

Although solar PV panels have a long lifespan of potentially more than 40 years, you will need to replace the inverter after eight to 12 years.

What are the key considerations when thinking about solar PV?

If you have a 24-hour shift system you will still be reliant at certain times on an alternative energy source, unless you use battery storage, as solar panels cannot produce electricity when the sun has gone down.

The amount of electricity you can generate will be restricted by the available roof space   If you run out of roof space, and have an outside area giving access to direct sunlight, you could consider installing further panels at ground level.

How much does it cost to install solar PV?

The initial outlay could be reasonably high when compared with other options, although the good news is that the cost of installing this technology has dropped over the past ten years. As a rough guide, panels fitted on your roof would cost anywhere between £650 and around £1,200 for each kWp installed.

Would solar PV be suitable for my business?

Businesses in many sectors are already using solar panels, from retail to hospitality and manufacturing to farming.

Not only does it lower your carbon footprint and reduce your monthly energy bills, but it also sends a message to your customers, supply chain and competitors that you are committed to becoming a more sustainable organisation.

High energy users could benefit the most if they have space to accommodate sufficient solar panels. But the advantages are clear for any business. All you need is a roof that is facing the right direction and can support the weight of the panels, or you have outside space where the panels can be installed.

Frequently asked questions about solar PV

  • Do solar PVs work when it’s cloudy? Yes, they do. They have been developed to work on days when it isn’t sunny.
  • Is solar energy expensive? Cost is relative. You need to consider the savings you will make in not using as much electricity from the grid; any income you will receive from the Smart Export Guarantee; and the lifespan of your panels.
  • Do solar panels need a lot of maintenance? No, they don’t. Dust and debris are usually washed or blown away by the elements, so they really just need to be cleaned with water every now and again to get rid of any trapped dirt.
  • Will solar panels make it harder to sell my property? Having solar panels should put value on your premises and they will encourage buyers who are looking for a ‘greener’ site.

See what other businesses have done

We have worked with several businesses that have installed solar PV and have gone on to make big savings. Click below to read their stories: