How they work
Solar panels use photovoltaic (PV) cells to convert sunlight into energy. This energy is then fed into your mains supply as electricity.
Compared to energy produced by fossil fuels, solar energy is 100% renewable. This means:
- no harmful byproducts
- fewer or no carbon emissions
Advantages for your business include:
- lower energy bills
- low maintenance costs
- increased consumer and investor confidence in your brand
- being more attractive to buyers as they seek a greener supply chain
- preparation for future laws and regulations
- potential to gain income by selling energy back to the National Grid
Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)
Any electricity you don’t use can be sold to the National Grid through your energy supplier.
Each energy supplier will offer a different rate (tariff). The minimum rate a supplier can lawfully offer is £0.001p per kW produced. Most suppliers offer around 3-6p per kW produced.
Find out if you are eligible and how to apply for a licence at Ofgem’s website.
Types of solar panels
There are 3 main types of solar panels:
- standard solar panels
- thin film solar panels
- solar tiles
Standard solar panels are the most commonly used.
Tempered or plate glass
Tempered (strengthened) glass lasts longer than plate glass. On average, tempered glass solar panels can last up to 25 years. Many come with a 20-year guarantee.
Size and power
Most solar panels are less than 2m2 in size and provide between 250 and 350 W (Watts) of energy.
Four panels providing 1 kW (kilowatt) of solar energy can generate between 700 and 900 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity per year. This is based on average UK weather conditions.
To get an idea of how many kW of solar power you need:
- Look at your electricity bills to see how many kWh you use per month.
- Multiply this by 12 to see how many kWh you use per year.
- Then you can calculate how much solar power you will need (in kW).
The cost of installing solar panels depends on the size and type of the installation. It can also vary per region.
Average prices, according to government data for 2020:
- 4 to 10 kW – £1,562 per kW installed
- 10 to 50 kW – £1,100 per kW installed
Solar panel installers should be certified by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). Find MCS-certified installers in your local area.
With an electricity battery you can store unused energy and use it later or sell it back to the grid. Batteries for a 4 kW system will typically cost between £4,000 and £6,000.
Once they are installed, solar panels have few running costs. You will however need to replace the solar inverter – which connects panels to the electricity – after 10 to 15 years. A new inverter will cost around £600 to £1000.
Renewable technology has a rateable value. This means Installing solar panels can affect your business rates. Find out how at GOV.UK.
Solar panels require direct sunlight and should normally be installed on the roof. Your roof should be:
- owned or legally rented by your company
- preferably either south-facing or relatively flat
- structurally sound
If no roof space is available, they can be installed in any exterior location where they are protected from harm and receive direct sunlight.
In certain areas planning permission will be needed.
Solar panels and UK weather
Though sunny conditions are preferable, solar panels can produce energy on cloudy days. Even during winter weather the UK climate is perfectly adequate.
Output is likely to be higher however in southern parts of the UK. Cornwall, for instance, receives 30% more sunshine hours than northern Scotland.
Other forms of renewable energy
You might also consider installing:
- heat pumps
- a wind turbine
If you need help designing an energy system which is right for your business, contact one of these certified installers.
If you can’t install renewable forms of energy, consider switching to a ‘green’ energy tariff with your energy supplier.
Across the UK local funding is available for businesses looking to install energy efficiency measures. Find out which areas are covered and how much you can get.
You can receive a discount on CCL (Climate Change Levy) taxes paid to your energy supplier by signing a Climate Change Agreement (CCA).
This is a voluntary agreement with the Environment Agency to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. Find out who is eligible and how to apply.
What’s coming next
Solar power is expected to surpass fossil fuels by 2050 and become the world’s main energy source. As demand grows, solar panels are set to become cheaper and more efficient.
Find out more about switching to renewables.
Discover the benefits of switching to electric vehicles (EVs).