The drive to commercial rooftops …
The Government in its recent Solar Strategy re-iterated its drive away from solar farms towards commercial rooftops, with offices, car parks, factories, supermarkets and military training centres evolving into ‘solar hubs’. This as yet untapped market is predicted as 1GW over next two years with the Government pledging 500MW on crown land, before next year’s elections.
With commercial solar, much of the energy is locally generated and can be used in situ, reducing losses in transmission and distribution. For example, supermarkets can use the electricity they generate to offset the costs of running expensive refrigeration systems and lighting. For surplus electricity, storage is an option, further reducing commercial energy bills as well as relieving pressure on the grid.
Cutting Red Tape
DECC have announced that commercial and industrial rooftop solar less than 1MW will no longer require planning permission, making it much easier to install large-scale commercial solar PV systems. In reality there is still some confusion surrounding planning.
With over 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops available and waiting – this is an untapped market with huge potential and ripe for growth that has lagged behind both domestic and ground mount in the UK.
Landlord / Tenant Relations
One key hurdle in the installation of commercial solar has been the complexity of leases for commercial buildings. In Germany, they do not have as many complex landlord-tenant issues, with many commercial buildings owner occupied.
In the UK however, leases are typically short-term – averaging only 4.7 years – presenting issues for a solar investment with a 20-year return. Solar needs to be an investment for both the landlord and the tenant.
The Government have hinted that this is an issue they will address. Just how they intend to tackle it remains to be seen, policies are essential.
Finance is also a problem, with many businesses wanting to install solar, unable to afford it. However, costs of solar PV are falling fast as the technology becomes more popular and many institutions are now looking at creative ways to raise funds.
Schemes such as Solar Schools, sponsored by renewable energy supplier, Good Energy, help to raise money for community projects through crowd funding and rent-a-roof schemes. The returns are not just financial for Solar Schools; the whole project is an education in itself, with pupils gaining an interest in renewable energy as well as learning new skills in marketing and project planning.
One thing is for sure – commercial solar in the UK is the next big thing – the Government have already pledged 1GW on its own land, including 24,000 schools and military estates. And history has shown in the UK that where there is a will there is a way!
Thinking of getting involved in commercial?
The Alternergy team offers specialist design and technical support to anyone thinking of installing a commercial system or just wanting to get started. Talk to us by calling 020 3763 7000 or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.