Bee Net Zero

Is solar PV the right solution for your Greater Manchester business?

  • Friday, July 7, 2023
  • Posted By The Growth Company

Commercial solar panels can make a real difference to your business. Whether you're looking for a more energy-efficient alternative to reduce your energy bills and increase your independence or want to be a more sustainable business to attract customers, talent and reduce your carbon footprint, solar is a great solution. 


Greater Manchester doesn’t have a reputation for being a particularly sunny part of the world. However, Greater Manchester has 1400 hours of sunshine every year, so we’re a perfectly viable solar city and the technology is certainly one that businesses should consider taking advantage of to reduce energy costs and their impact on the environment.


However, before you decide to install solar PV for your business, you’ll need to make sure that this is the right renewable energy solution for your business as it does require an initial investment and financial commitment.


If you’re thinking of installing solar PV to generate renewable energy for your business, we’ve outlined some things that will help you understand if solar is right for your business.

Do you own your building?

Firstly, if you own your building or workspace it’s far easier to install solar PV as you have control over the roof. For tenants, it’s not impossible to install solar but you’ll need to have a conversation with your landlord and make the business case. If you’re in a shared office space, it may be worthwhile asking multiple tenants to come together and request the landlord’s permission to install solar.


Do you have enough space?

Space is a key consideration when installing solar PV. The average system size is around 3.5kWp and this will typically take up around 20m2 roof area. The more roof space your business has, the easier it will be to install solar PV that meets your needs. Warehouses and manufacturing businesses may need more power but will have the space to facilitate it. Offices typically won’t need as much power and so smaller roof space will be adequate. 


Does the roof need to be south facing for solar PV?

An unshaded, South facing roof is ideal for maximum electrical output. East or West-facing roofs could still be considered, but North-facing roofs are not recommended. A system facing East or West will yield around 15-20% less energy than one facing directly South which for many should generate enough power to reduce energy bills significantly.


Remember that any nearby buildings, trees or chimneys could shade your roof and harm the performance of your system.


Finding an unshaded spot is best, but of course, sometimes shading is unavoidable. Some solar PV systems can minimise the impact of shading using ‘optimisers’ so this is something you should ask your installer about. If you don’t have shading, the use of optimisers is not necessary or beneficial, other than the increased monitoring opportunities they offer. They won’t generate more energy.


Do I need planning permission to install a solar PV system?

Solar PV panels are considered ‘permitted developments’ and often don’t require planning permission. However, exceptions apply and it’s best to check with your local planning office for guidance. If you live in a listed building, conservation area or national park, additional restrictions may apply so be aware of that before you invest.


Is solar energy reliable enough for my business?

Many businesses are worried about installing onsite renewables like solar PV because they’re worried about reliability; businesses need reliable energy to ensure continuity and productivity. The truth is, Solar energy can be one of the most reliable sources of natural energy that you can use to power your business. Although it will depend on its location and the amount of sunlight that your building typically gets — it’s still a great, greener energy source.


The majority of businesses operate in the daytime, so it makes financial sense to switch to solar energy. 


Of course, solar energy is most effective in the summertime when the days are longer and there tends to be more sun available for electricity generation. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t reap the benefits of solar energy in the winter months. Instead, this just means that your reliance on solar energy should be reduced as we experience darker days and worse weather conditions. 


Many businesses choose to install a battery in this case, which stores excess energy ready to use when there is no sunlight available. Using a battery alongside your solar pv prevents your business from having to rely on the national grid. If you operate at night, combining solar panels with solar batteries means you could continue powering your business after dark.


Will solar power generate enough energy for my business?

The efficiency of solar panels is advancing all the time as renewable technology develops. Currently, most commercial solar panels will generate around 200-400 kWh of energy per hour.


A single 400-watt solar panel will produce, on average, 1.6 kWh of electricity over a day, and 48.7 kWh of electricity per month. Multiply this by the amount of solar PV panels your roof will fit and this should be more than enough electricity to run your business. Most businesses use between 15,000 and 25,000 kWh of energy a year, according to Bionic. This will depend on the size of your commercial building and how much energy is consumed on a day-to-day basis.


Therefore, whatever industry you’re working with solar could be a great solution provided you have the roof space and can make the initial investment. Right now, solar panels see payback within three years as energy prices continue to rise and businesses in all industries from office-based companies to large-scale manufacturers are turning to renewable energy sources.


Bee Net Zero is here to make the switch to solar as simple as possible for businesses across Greater Manchester. As part of our solar campaign, Bee Net Zero has written blogs on the advantages of solar and how to find the right solar installer.


You can find more content from our partners on our Rooftop Revolution Landing Page.


To learn more about whether solar is right for your Greater Manchester business, contact our team.