There has been a lot of interest in residential solar installations but the potential of all these larger south facing roofs on commercial properties seems to have been greatly underexploited. Ironically it is businesses that will probably benefit the most from installing solar as they are usually always occupied during daylight hours.
There are both benefits and potential additional complexities with installing solar on commercial premises. The main stumbling blocks are the ownership issues, many businesses occupying commercial premises are not the freehold owners of the properties. Some buildings house have multiple businesses, some part owned and some rented but again the freehold and additional complexity of who actually owns the roof of the building means that many solar installers have stayed away from this market.
Commercial premises that have a south facing roof can benefit financially from installing solar. The feed-in tariff scheme which are now the equivalent of the old solar panel grants means that anyone investing is solar PV will more than earn back their initial investment. The panels would pay for themselves and also provide a source of clean electricity throughout the day.
For businesses operating during daylight hours will see the biggest benefit in the reduction of their electricity bills. If you operate during the weekends too the savings will be even greater. It doesn't necessarily have to be a large business to benefit; in fact the smaller installations receive a higher rate of FIT payments.
Additionally going solar give your company a greener image, customers like to see business doing their bit to go green and cut carbon emissions. Getting solar installed would certainly be worthy of a press release and extra coverage in the local press. Improving your green credentials can give you an edge over your competitors.
Not every business is going to be in a position to make the initial outlay on a technology that has a relatively long payback period of at least 7 years. Many companies are having trouble getting funding and loans from banks as it is let alone having the money to invest in something that is a non-essential business activity.
Of course solar is not going to be right for every business right now, however you are going to get a much better return on your investment by taking action now rather than waiting. The currently very generous feed-in tariff rates are set to drop for late adopters. This means that if you invest now you are guaranteed the higher rates for 25 years, leave it longer and you will get the lower rates.
The government are set to introduce the Green Deal which provides financing for investments in green technologies. It works by lending the money to businesses (and homeowners) to invest in technologies such as solar. It is set up in such as way that you pay back the loan from the savings made by installing solar. Essentially this is a way to invest in solar without having to make the initial investment yourself.
I have talked on the subject of free solar panels for businesses and how you can get installers to provide you with a free solar installation. The advantages of going this route is that you are not having to make the initial investment yourself. You get the electricity that the system produces but the company that installed the system gets the feed-in tariff payments.
For businesses that do not have the upfront finances to invest in solar a business loan is an option. Whilst many businesses are finding it harder to get financing it should be easier to get a loan to install solar as the bank knows the loan will be paid back because of the feed-in tariff payments. As a business you will be able to write off some or all of the cost against your tax liabilities through depreciation of the system and the business loan. You should however confirm this with your accountant.
As the cost of electricity rises, we have just seen British Gas increase its energy prices 18% and prises will continue to rise. By investing in solar a large proportion of your electrical energy needs could be met by solar and negate those cost rises meaning even greater savings in the future.
If you own commercial property by installing solar on suitable premises will not only ensure an additional guaranteed return on your investment but also make your properties more attractive to potential businesses for renting or leasing. Whilst you would be able to recoup you investment with a guaranteed tax free income your commercial tenants would be attracted by the fact they would get free electricity reducing their energy bills.
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