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How are Solar Panels Installed?

Solar panels have been a smart investment for many years now, but they’re especially beneficial for businesses that have high energy consumption, like food producers or those using cold storage.  As technology improves and prices drop, more businesses have access to this efficient and environmentally friendly energy solution. Solar panels are a brilliant asset for a greener future and can generate electricity at a mere third of the price of grid-supplied energy, incurring impressive savings.

Understanding solar panels

The first thing to know about getting solar panels installed is that it’s not a question of switching energy providers. While it’s certainly possible to switch to an electricity supplier that uses renewable energy, installing your own solar panels is about establishing a self-generation system on site.

Another thing to understand is that solar power is not “free energy” per se. For the majority of commercial solar PV project, you pay an initial investment for installation. When we work out the equivalent unit price solar offers, we spread the cost of installation typically over 25 years, and this usually results in a figure of around 4-5p per unit electricity. Compared to grid electricity prices of around 15p per unit, this is an obvious saving, albeit with a larger initial outlay. A good way to think about it is to imagine that installing solar panels is “forward buying” electricity at a much cheaper electricity rate for the future. Average payback is usually 5-6 years so after this time, it is like producing free renewable energy.

The process of installing solar panels

The financial benefits are clear, but you may be wondering about the installation process itself, and what you can expect. Because solar panels are intended to maintain sufficient functionality over many, many years, they need to be durable, and installed correctly. Ensuring your solar panels are fitted by qualified professionals means you can trust their work, not just today but decades into the future.

Poorly installed solar panels can cost a small fortune in the long run, when you consider ongoing repairs, maintenance or replacement. You could quickly see the promised savings eaten up by overhauls that need to be done within just a few years.

Rushed or sloppy installation can leave you with interrupted water flow on the roof, damage to the supporting roof structure (if it’s not suitable to bear the load of the solar panel array, for example), faulty wiring, or simply panels that are positioned sub-optimally. Poor quality fixings could pose a hazard if it dislodges in heavy winds and falls off the building, and defective components could leave you without electricity or dealing with a nasty roof leak. All of this can be a significant disruption to business – and could risk extraordinary losses in the case of refrigerated systems.

This is why it’s so important to carefully assess your chosen solar panel provider and their credentials. Thoroughly investigate how long they’ve been in business, who their previous clients were and their results, what their installation process is like, what’s included in the final fee, and their health and safety record. A responsible solar panel company will have their own in-house installation and electrical team that they trust to undertake new installations, rather than outsourcing to external parties they can’t stand behind 100%.

Next steps

Depending on the size of the project, installation can take anywhere from a few days a couple of weeks, but this can vary depending on roof type, the solar PV system installed, any preparation needed beforehand and of course, the weather on the day. No two solar panel installations are the same.

You’ll receive instructions from your installation team on how to use the system once in place, and all the necessary paperwork and certification.

Once the panels are fully installed, you can start tracking your energy usage to calculate your savings over a month or year, whether that’s in money or reduced carbon dioxide emissions, or both. You can do a rough calculation given the total number of sunlight hours in the day and the wattage produced by each panel per hour, multiplied by the number of panels, to work out how approximately much energy you are generating.

But just because you are using solar energy, it doesn’t mean you can’t make further efficiencies by being frugal with the energy you do use. Try reducing overall building energy consumption, use high-consumption appliances during the day, and see what else can be powered electrically, such as your boilers, gardening implements, or electric vehicles.

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