Can Solar Help My Business?
When looking specifically at commercial consumers, there’s a wide variety of ways in which a solar installation could help with business operations. If your business uses electricity in any way, it’s highly probable that installing a solar system will help cut your bottom line and increase profitability. There are a few things to consider before picking up the phone to your nearest installer though: what type of business is going to benefit most from solar? Are we solely talking about PV, or is solar thermal an option? What are the upfront costs, and what are the payback periods? Fundamentally, is it worth it?
So, there are a number of ways in which installing a solar system can help with the operations of a business. First and foremost, reducing the cost of energy (specifically electricity with PV) supply to a business is going to help significantly. Electricity consumption is sunk cost and is vital for the operation of most modern businesses. In the long term, installing a solar system will alleviate the amount of electricity you need to purchase from the national grid, possibly entirely depending on the size of the system. Once the payback period for the system is over, that’s a permanent reduction to the bottom line for the duration of the system lifetime. This depends a little bit on the type of business you’re running of course: if you’re mostly using thermal energy (specifically heat), like in some industrial applications, a PV system might not offset as much as in an office building, for example, as more of your company’s energy expenditure is going to go on gas or whatever other fuel is being used for heat generation. Electric cooling, however, can be offset in the same way as any other electricity consumption.
There are a number of co-benefits to solar that really helps tip the balance, however, that aren’t just related to electricity or energy consumption. First off, it looks really good! Brand image is a big thing in marketing, and being seen to be corporately responsible by using renewable electricity presents a positive image of the company as a whole. This can also be integrated into wider sustainability strategies within companies fairly easily.
However, as with everything in life, the costs need to be considered. For corporate-scale systems these days, payback periods have dropped dramatically: something in the ballpark of seven years is fairly typical. However, upfront costs are still fairly high, and with limited support from the government in recent years, this has been a barrier to larger installations. Making sure the financial planning is sound, and the benefits of the system are going to be realised once installed, is important. Finally, having somewhere to install the system is necessary! Warehouse roofs are ideal, as are the roofs of office buildings, once negotiated with the owner of the building. Even ground-mounted systems are a possibility if there’s spare space on the business site.
So in summary, is solar good for business? Considering the above factors, the answer is almost always yes. From reducing costs in the long term to boosting corporate image, there are a number of benefits to installing solar systems for a business.