A guide to solar PV energy
1. What is solar PV?
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels generate electricity using energy from the sun. Electricity will still be generated on cloudy and rainy days, albeit it at a reduced level. The electricity is taken from the panels to an inverter, which either pushes into your supply (if you need it), or sends it out to the grid if you don’t have demand for energy at that specific time (you are paid for this export). Solar PV reduces the amount of electricity you buy from your energy supplier, but in most cases does not remove the need for you to be connected to the grid.
There are no moving parts, with a well installed system requiring minimal maintenance, (depending on the environment, this may include solar panel cleaning every 1-2 years). The panels are performance warrantied to deliver over 84% of the energy they generate in year 1 in year 25, and are expected to continue operating well beyond this point – adding real ongoing value to any building.
2. Why should I invest in a solar panel installation?
Solar panels for commercial buildings utilise large amounts of uncomplicated and unused roof space. Solar can significantly reduce your overheads and secure your future energy price. With a typical Return On Investment (ROI) of 25-30% and payback of 3-4 years, solar PV is undeniably worth looking into. Most businesses operate during the day and this is when solar energy is generated so you’ll be using your solar power directly on site. Anything you don’t use will be exported to the grid and you’ll receive a payment for this.
3. How will solar PV lower your carbon footprint?
Carbon emissions and climate change are high on everyone's agenda currently. Your business can act on this with a solar PV installation. With many companies looking for fellow 'green' businesses to work with, you can gain a competitive edge by showcasing your solar when tendering for business. Mypower's detailed monitoring system can be displayed prominently in your reception area to illustrate CO2 savings and energy production to visitors.
4. How is solar PV 1/5 of the price of grid supplied electricity?
The equivalent unit rate for solar PV generated electricity is c.5p/kWh, calculated when you compare the capital cost and expected maintenance costs to the energy generated over the warrantied lifetime of the panels. Using this comparison, solar PV generates at a unit rate c.80% lower than the current grid supplied rate of 25p/kWh.
5. How quickly will a PV system pay for itself?
Payback periods are typically 3-4 years, and that's before any potential benefit can be gleaned by using available Annual Investment Allowance tax benefits.
6. Which important product features should I look for when selecting a solar provider?
The most important areas to look at when selecting a provider are quality, service and experience. Quality of the solar panels varies with providers and the quality will determine the power output and amount of electricity generated. When looking at the numbers, make sure you compare Kwh production between solar panels. Mypower only use high quality, high yielding panels manufactured by well-known brands such as QCells and Trina.
You should ask the supplier questions about what service they include. There is a fair amount of paperwork to complete following each installation. Mypower provide a full turnkey package and project management, from initial DNO consultation/application and financial feasibility study, to completion of formal handover pack and PPA negotiations, maintenance and monitoring.
7. How do I choose the best provider?
Check out how long the installer has been in the industry and how many installations they have completed for the type of installation you need, such as solar panels for industrial use. Ask for customer references and find out which vendors they are working with. Be careful to check out the company's Health and Safety record and their experience with roofs, groundwork and electrical work. Mypower are MCS, REAL & NAPIT accredited ensuring quality processes. Our in-house fitting and installation team includes a member of Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, qualified electrical engineers, experienced installers and administrators.
8. How can I finance the installation?
Our customers are seeing between 25% and 30% first year returns on the solar investment with a total system payback between 3-4 years. There are numerous ways to finance your investment through long-term loans, bank loans, mortgages, etc. Mypower can put you in touch with an advisor. Systems funded in this way are often cash flow positive within 12 months.
9. What is the Feed-in Tariff?
The Feed-in Tariff subsidy or FiT scheme closed to new entrants on the 31st of March 2019. FiT was a government incentive to encourage the uptake of renewable energy.
10. Is solar still profitable without government subsidies?
Yes. As costs of solar panels have reduced, and prices of grid supplied electricity have increased, your own solar PV system is now the most cost effective way to source electricity for your business, even without a subsidy. The table below shows a system comparison over a 7-year period, illustrating that now is a better time than ever to invest in a solar PV system.
11. How much do I get paid for my generated energy?
Firstly, the biggest saving is made when you use the electricity generated by the solar panels onsite, so you don’t need to buy it from your electricity supplier. The income you generate from your panels will be determined by the size of the system. Surplus energy not used on site can be sold to the grid with the appropriate meter in place to measure this. Export rates are typically in the region of 8-10p/kWh.
12. How do I connect my solar panels to the national grid?
Inverters connect the solar panels to the main supply. DC power generated from the solar panels goes through the inverter which converts it to AC power and is exported to the grid. Any three phase solar installation above 11.04kW requires permission from your electricity company Distribution Network Operator (DNO). Mypower will organise all of the permissions you need. Any energy you don't use goes to the National Grid to power other local businesses and homes. So not only are you powering your business on clean, green energy, you are providing it to others too.
13. Do I need planning permission?
For smaller systems commercial systems under 50kWp planning permission is not usually required for roof mounts although listed buildings and those in conservation area will need to apply. For larger roof mounted systems over 50kWp a prior notice planning application is required, and from the 21st of December 2023 the prior notice approach will extend to rooftop systems over and above 1MWp, again subject to any special conditions e.g. conservation area. We can provide professional advice on planning requirements.
14. How long do PV panels last?
High quality panels like Trina and QCells guarantee a 25 year power output such that the panels will still produce over 84% of the electricity they are producing today in 25 years’ time. However the estimated lifetime for these solar panels is estimated to be much longer.
15. How much does a solar PV install cost?
Project costs will depend on size and panel quality. Please contact us for a site survey and we’ll be able to give you a price and all the return figures you can expect.
16. Can solar panels produce electricity on a cloudy day?
Yes, solar panels still produce energy even on a cloudy day, although not as much as on a sunny day.