Sunny side up


Solen Energy UK technical director Justin Mowbray explains the benefits of investing in solar energy

It would seem Cornwall is awash with solar power. Installers are ten a penny, and there’s no denying the feel-good factor and visual impact of some shiny photovoltaic (PV) panels on your roof.

But what is the business case for solar? We see it as less about “greenwash” and more about making financial sense.

Cornwall is the ultimate place to embrace solar energy – we have the best quality sunlight compared to the rest of the UK.

We also have a strong agricultural sector and many small to medium sized businesses with the physical roof space to carry a solar PV system.

The Government’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) still has plenty to offer a business or commercial property owner.

The aim of the FIT is to encourage the UK to be generating 15 per cent of its own energy by 2020. Although the tariff has been capped for larger installations, there are still cost-effective deals for SMEs.

For a 50KW system, which typically covers 400 square metres of roof space, the financial investment would be £150k. This covers everything from initial discussions with your installer to being plugged into the grid – design of the system to make sure it’s as effective as possible, the PV panels themselves, connection, mounting materials and technical support.

In the current financial climate, £150k is a lot of money. But payback on your investment can be reached within just eight years, in some cases before that.

With each system guaranteed for 25 years, that’s another 17 years where you could be making upwards of £16k each year, both from savings on your own energy bills and selling what you don’t use back to the national grid.

This return is considerably better than a number of financial products currently on the market, and it can also help reduce your carbon footprint.

When considering solar PV for business and agriculture, we would strongly recommend sourcing a supplier with specific experience in this sector.

There is also much more to the technology than sticking some panels on your roof. Consideration needs to be made to the appropriate angle and positioning of the system to ensure it harvests as much solar energy as possible.

Systems of a larger scale should be considered as a significant electrical installation – smaller companies or electrical contractors who regularly fit domestic PV simply don’t have the experience of these jobs.

Our company, for example, brings several years experience of the German market to Cornwall. Solen has installed more than 400MW-worth of solar PV across Europe.

Harnessing energy from the sun offers a promising opportunity for businesses looking to invest in their future. Talk to our experts about how it can work for you.

This article first appeared in the November 2011 issue of Business Cornwall magazine