Everything you need to know about commercial solar PV

Although we pride ourselves on providing a range of renewable technologies, commercial solar panels remain our flagship offering.

But what exactly is it? And are commercial solar panels worth it? This comprehensive online guide will answer everything you need to know before embracing commercial solar panels for your business. By providing you with as much information as possible, we hope you’ll feel empowered to make an informed decision about whether solar PV is right for your company.

Here’s what you’ll find out in this article…

What are commercial solar panels? 
How do commercial solar panels work? 
Finance options for commercial solar panels
Why use commercial solar panels?
Do commercial solar panels require maintenance?
Are there any negatives to commercial solar panels?
Are commercial solar panels worth it?

What are commercial solar panels?

Commercial solar panels (or commercial solar PV) are simply solar panels that are used by a business or organisation. There’s no such thing as ‘industrial-grade solar’. Of course, businesses are likely to have much larger solar arrays than domestic customers.

Commercial solar panels can benefit businesses of any sector. If you use a large amount of energy to run your business, why not make it green? However, commercial solar PV may be especially beneficial to companies in the following sectors due to their large energy requirements:

  • Agriculture
  • Manufacture
  • Food and drink
  • Transport
  • Hospitality
  • Leisure

 

How does a commercial solar array work?

All solar panels work the same, whether they’re used commercially or not.

Solar panels are comprised of wafers of silicon placed between layers of glass, metal, and an anti-glare coating. When sunlight shines on the solar cells, electrons in the silicon are agitated. This agitation grows into movement, creating an electrical current. This flows through an inverter, changing it to alternating current (we typically use AC energy in our homes and businesses because it’s safer).

Commercial solar PV may be paired with battery storage. Without a battery, solar energy must be used in real-time, when the sun is shining. Battery storage allows you to save that energy for later (ie nighttime). Even with a battery, your business won’t be off-grid. Your business will likely use more energy than the solar alone can provide, so will still require grid energy for the excess.

Commercial solar panels also work well if your employees or fleet use electric vehicles. Most EV chargers can be programmed to use solar energy before drawing any power from the grid. This allows your business to offer EV charge facilities, without increasing your energy bill.

 

Finance options for commercial solar panels

Buying and installing your own solar panels (CapEx) is always the most cost-effective option. However, this is not possible for all businesses. Purchasing your own solar requires an upfront investment, which not all budgets allow.

Businesses that want to get their energy from solar without the upfront investment may benefit from a power purchase agreement (PPA).

A PPA allows businesses to gain onsite solar, without investing in the installation themselves. Under a PPA, you don’t own the solar panels. They are owned by the installer, who rents your roof space for a nominal fee. Your business then purchases its energy from the installer, at lower than the market rate.

You can read our full guide to PPAs here.

 

Why use solar PV for businesses?

Businesses that use a lot of energy, but only during daylight hours, are the ideal candidate for commercial solar PV. This is because your energy load profile matches the sunlight hours, so you can use the energy in real-time without wasting any. Domestic homes, on the other hand, use more energy in the early mornings and evenings, before the sun is shining. Most commercial buildings also benefit from a large, flat roof: the ideal location for solar.

Switching to solar PV will instantly cut your business’s energy bill. The more energy your business uses, the more you can save with solar panels. Reducing your energy spend increases your bottom line, improving the profitability of your business. This frees up extra capital to invest elsewhere in your business. You are also safeguarding your business from increased overheads in the future, as energy costs will consistently rise.

Of course, solar panels also provide significant green benefits to your business. Reducing your company’s carbon footprint helps fulfil your corporate environmental responsibility. Not only is it the right thing to do, but your customers and stakeholders will appreciate it, too. A comprehensive new study by Neilsen found that consumers prefer brands with green credentials.

 

Does commercial solar require maintenance?

A little. Overall, solar is a very stable investment: the sun shines a similar amount every year, so you should generate a consistent amount of solar energy.

All reputable installers will provide a complete monitoring system with commercial solar PV. If you notice that your generation levels are not as they should be, you could benefit from a little operations and maintenance service. Solar panels are very safe, with long term warranties. However, occasional faults do happen.

Dirt and grime on the surface on a panel can also affect its performance. If light can’t reach the silicon cell within, the panel cannot generate solar energy. Since the UK receives a high amount of rainfall, most solar panels don’t need cleaning regularly. However, if your business’s operations are particularly ‘messy’ (think agriculture, livestock, or certain manufacture) your panels may need annual cleaning.

Check out our guide to solar panel cleaning and servicing for more information.

 

Are there any negatives?

While solar will save you money overall, you need the cash flow available upfront to invest. Of course, you can negate this with a PPA, but these provide smaller financial savings.

As we discussed above, solar panels do require a little maintenance. If you’re a CapEx customer, you’ll have to arrange (and pay for) this yourself. PPA customers, on the other hand,  typically have cleaning and maintenance included in their contract with the installer.

And finally, installing CapEx solar can create a small increase in business rates. In these cases, solar is considered an asset that makes the property more valuable. However, this doesn’t apply to PPA solar customers: the solar PV is owned and managed by a separate entity, so the property owner isn’t liable.

 

Are commercial solar panels worth it?

Yes! However, you may need to weigh up the appropriateness of solar PV for your company, since some businesses are better candidates for solar than others. Remember that the more energy you use, the more you will save. And as energy prices inflate, this saving will only increase. Factors such as the pitch of your roof and orientation of your building also affect the generating potential of solar PV on your site.

While this article focuses more on the financial benefits of solar, let’s not forget the environmental ones. Without drastic intervention, our planet will continue to warm, and human life will alter irreparably. Any step we can take to cut our carbon footprint is a step towards safeguarding our planet for future generations. They may seem small, but together these steps add up.

Want to find out more?

Get in touch with a member of our dedicated sales team.