Commercial solar refers to panel installations that are non-residential, for example on farms and office and warehouse roofs. Businesses use significantly more energy than a household would do and thus it makes sense for them to install solar panels, which can reduce the electricity bill by up to a third. For example one of the largest commercial solar installations in the UK is a 6.1 MW system installed on Marks and Spencers, totalling 24,000 panels on its Castle Donington centre.
In Europe, Germany’s energy generation from solar power is staggering: 5.2% of its power was supplied through solar generation in 2013. In the same year in the UK the figures were paltry by comparison with just 0.64% generated by solar!
The UK, especially the south has a climate similar to most of Germany, which is the European leader in solar power generation. While this is largely based on the domestic solar sector, there are still a significant number of commercial solar installations in Germany including the 166 MW MeuroSolarparkthat put the UK’s ones, often ten times smaller than this, to shame. For comparison the first solar farm in the UK was a measly 32 MW – over five times smaller!
This clearly leaves a lot of room for improvement. Germany’s dominance of the solar market extends globally also as a quarter of all the world’s solar capacity is installed in Germany.
Barriers to Wide-scale Implementation in the UK
The UK government has recently shifted focus from installing solar panels in empty fields to commercial roof top solar. However, the main barrier to the more wide spread implementation of commercial solar is the fact that 70% of commercial property is leasehold, which means businesses do not own the building and thus getting permission to install panels is more complicated.
A little-known fact is that solar panels can significantly increase the value of a property but this is not a widely marketed angle.
In Germany farmers own 11% of all renewable energy assets which include ground-mounted solar and wind turbines.
There are many other compelling benefits including: improvement of green credentials and boosting corporate social responsibility as well as a better EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating which is always of benefit to a company.
However, there are “natural” barriers so to speak to implementing commercial solar throughout the UK. Scotland and Northern Ireland can use solar power but the yields do not make it very effective.
Even in England itself, anywhere north of Birmingham already suffers from less viable yields more on a par with Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Germany has recently achieved grid parity, which means power from solar is the same price as power from the electricity grid. The commercial solar sector is clearly moving along in leaps and bounds and the UK needs to get in on the act!
Hopefully with the increasing awareness of the role that renewable energy has to play in the UK, great strides will be made in the UK in 2015.