Should I get Solar Panels for my business?

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Shailesh Ramani from Free Price Compare discusses the myths about solar panels for business.

“Solar panels will definitely pay for themselves, for businesses this may take between eight and thirteen years in the UK, although circumstances may vary depending on how much energy is used and the orientation of your solar panels, as well as the number of PV cells installed.”

If you mention to people that you are intending to install solar panels on the roof of your business, you are generally speaking met with one of two responses. If you are talking to someone who already has solar panels, you will probably be given websites and phone numbers of suppliers for installation, as well as numbers to illustrate how much they've saved in energy bills and other positive noises about the benefits of solar-powered heating. On the other hand, if you are speaking to someone who doesn't have this experience, you are likely to hear a sharp intake of breath, followed by a litany of excuses why you should not consider solar panels including the cost, the disruption and the English climate.

As you are here looking for information about solar energy, it is likely that you have some questions based on the objections raised either in your own mind or seeds of doubt planted by others based on some of these myths. You will likely wish to inform yourself, placing yourself in the best position to make an energy efficient decision.

Let's take a look at some of the most common myths, and bust them.

Solar panels cost a fortune

In the past, this was certainly true. These days, the cost of photovoltaic cells and the rest of the system required to turn solar energy into a useful energy source for your business premises has become far more economical. The cost of installation has similarly fallen in recent years.

They've stopped the Feed-in Tariff

Whilst the Feed-in Tariff has closed to new entrants, the Smart Export Guarantee was introduced at the beginning of 2020. The SEG ensures that the UK's larger energy companies offer at least one tariff which pays for excess energy which is exported back to the grid when generated by solar power, or other means. Tariffs will vary, and may not be as generous as the feed-in tariff offered in previous years, but you should be able to find a tariff which pays you for energy that you produce.  British Gas for example offer a Smart Export tariff for businesses with low carbon or renewable technology installed and a smart meter which can export readings.

You can't use solar panels effectively in the UK

As we shiver through yet another British Summer, you could be forgiven for thinking that we don't get enough energy from the sun to make solar panels make any kind of difference to your energy bills. This is simply untrue, as modern solar panels are able to collect energy even in cloudy conditions. We aren’t going to get the same efficiency that Australia gets, however they can still be an incredibly smart business decision, especially if you are thinking with a long head. For most people, solar energy is an additional source of energy, while their business continues to be heated and powered by more traditional means, so demand can be met in the depths of winter.

You're stuck with the same energy provider

This is absolutely untrue. In common with businesses powered by more traditional means, tariffs available to solar-powered firms can be switched with similar terms and conditions. It could well be that there is a charge for moving early, in a similar manner to traditional electricity or gas tariffs, but you are able to switch when you choose.

Solar power is still in its infancy

Whilst solar energy has been used in one form or another for many years, modern advances have seen solar power utilised in something similar to its present incarnation for a good 20 years or so. Whilst previous solar experiments were certainly not viable within the UK, the current system works, even if you are in an area with below-average hours of sunshine, and above-average rainfall.

Solar panels won't pay for themselves

The most important aspect to consider here is that your expectations need to be managed. Solar panels are not an insignificant investment and whilst the cost has dropped in recent years, the cost of installation is in the thousands rather than the hundreds of pounds. Solar panels will definitely pay for themselves, for businesses this may take between ten and fifteen years, although circumstances may vary depending on how much energy is used and the orientation of your solar panels, as well as the number of PV cells installed.

I don't have a south-facing roof so solar panels won't work

Of course, as you may expect the most effective to orient solar panels is south facing. As anyone with a south-facing garden knows, they receive the most sun throughout the day and solar panels on a south-facing roof will collect more solar energy than those in any other orientation. Even with the decrease in performance from solar panels oriented directly to the east or west, you will only see a 20% reduction in operation. This is still likely to save you significant amounts on your energy spend over a year.

Solar panels use more energy to make than they produce

Within around 3 years, a solar panel will have reclaimed the energy used in its production. As solar panels last around 20 years, this is false.