Commercial Solar : What Can Solar PV Do for My Company?
Let’s start this blog off with one of the key facts: energy costs are directly inflating the bottom line of your business. Every kWh of electricity and gas you have to buy from the national grid is sunk cost, solely so that the business can keep operating. If that hasn’t gotten your attention, I don’t know what will!
So, what can be done about this? This is where commercial-scale solar installations come in. For small- and medium-sized business, if there’s space on the property in the form of a warehouse roof, office block roof or free land space, then installing a solar system is going to provide tangible, meaningful and immediate benefits to the company post-installation. There are a wide range of options available to companies looking to install some solar capacity, with different benefits available depending on the size and type of system.
Let’s start with the obvious one: installing a rooftop solar PV system on, say, a warehouse. How is this going to help your company? For starters, the reduction in electricity bills depending on the size of the system is going to be significant. The size of system you go for will depend on the scale of electricity consumption at your company (IE, how much your monthly/annual bill is) and the kind of space you have available to install a system. Self-generation of electricity will directly reduce the amount you have to spend on electricity from the national grid, freeing up capital for investment into the business. There are a number of ways in which this can be augmented, over and above the initial solar installation.
There’s been a lot of waves being made lately about battery storage for domestic applications, and these same arguments apply to commercial solar installations. The Tesla Power Pack, for example, offers great battery storage capacity for maximising the actual use of the renewable electricity being produced by a solar installation. There are a few other benefits to installing battery storage along with a solar installation: demand-side response, or DSR, can be helpful in particularly electricity-intensive industries, such as manufacturing. If you’ve ever been subject to an extra charge on an electricity bill because your power factor was too unstable, you’ll know what this is about! Battery storage can help smooth the peaks in electricity demand, taking in electricity from solar when available and releasing when grid demand would be higher than expected.
Another important factor for commercial solar is that it is scalable, all the way up. If your organisation has enough space available for panels, there’s no reason why anything up to your entire company’s electricity consumption can’t be met by solar with battery backup and storage. Installations of up to 6 megawatt-peak aren’t out of the question for medium-sized organisations with enough space, for example. And that is a lot of electricity!
As we’ve explained in other blogs on this site, there are other benefits to installing solar PV for electricity generation over and above the cost savings that come from the system. The environmental benefits of installing solar are evident: if your company is of a size where it’s participating in carbon tax and carbon credit schemes, for example, reducing the overall emissions associated with electricity consumption from your company frees up carbon budget for use on other activities. If you’re just looking to be more sustainable, of course, then solar is a great solution also. At present, the UK national grid is getting on for 40% renewable, not counting nuclear power. 100% renewable electricity from a solar installation is going to be less carbon-intensive than grid electricity.
The benefits don’t stop there, however. Aside from financial and environmental benefits, there’s the less-tangible social and commercial benefits that solar power offers to companies. Corporate social responsibility strategies can be built up around renewable energy production, and the marketing benefits of solar in terms of presenting a sustainable company image could make the difference in securing contracts.
Let’s move on from owner-operators and look at the commercial buildings market. Installing solar on a commercial building will directly increase the value of the property for prospective operators: if you can market your building as sustainable, this has co-benefits, and the directly lower operating costs of a PV-upgraded building will be an attractive proposition to prospective tenants.
Finally, let’s talk about future-proofing. Make no mistake, as the world transitions to a more sustainable electricity network and power generation resource mix, this is likely to mean increased electricity bills, at least in the short term as fossil fuels become more expensive and costs for installing new renewable generation need to be recouped. Installing solar at a commercial scale hedges against these potential cost increases into the future, guaranteeing a certain proportion of effectively free electricity (post payback-period) for the company, proof against the vagaries of electricity price fluctuations.
This blog has aimed to give a brief overview of the arguments for commercial solar, and address some of the common concerns that new customers may have before installation: the financial, environmental and social benefits of installing solar are very strong, and commercial solar is a sound investment for your company.