Aug 21, 2017 Last Updated 11:36 AM, Aug 14, 2017
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Paul Smith, Managing Director of RedSky Solar, gives PSBJ readers an in-depth insight into those typical concerns when considering installing solar panels, from government incentives through to the installation itself.

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Our organisation is looking to save energy and cut costs, should we be considering putting solar panels on our roof?

Sunshine is free, and with the price of solar panels falling, and electricity prices consistently rising, installing solar panels on your roof is a wise investment.

As well as making savings on energy bills, solar panels can generate extra income from government Feed-In Tariffs which reward organisations for generating electricity – even if it’s used by the organisation themselves.

Acting now will also help to future proof your organisation against any government carbon reduction penalties that may come into effect as pressure mounts for the UK to cut emissions.

How much money could my organisation save by installing solar panels?

Installing solar panels can take advantage of unused roof space to help you cut current and future energy costs by up to 60%. The government also currently pays Feed-in-Tariffs per unit of electricity generated (regardless of whether you use it yourself) and Export Tariffs for electricity exported back to the National Grid.

The Feed-in Tariff income is guaranteed for 20 years, and is index-linked, meaning it will rise with inflation. Energy bills have been rising more than inflation for at least the last 10 years, current DECC estimates rates continuing to rise by around 30% over the next 5 years, and if they continue to do so your savings will be even greater.

To give an example, Redsky Solar installed a 60kWh photovoltaic system on the roof of Ysgol y Gogarth, special educational needs school in Conwy in March 2014. In the first year the school has saved almost £4000 on electricity payments and is due to receive over £9,000 from this year’s Feed in Tariff payments. This is enough to fund an extra teaching assistant to support their learners. The use of renewable energy within the school has also reduced their CO2 emissions by 29kg.

Shouldn’t I wait to see which incentives will be offered for green measures in the future?

The Government’s last budget announced cuts in support for all types of renewable energy. Feed-in Tariffs had already been steadily falling for the last five years and could reduce as frequently as every quarter until they are abolished all together. We would urge any orgnaisation considering solar to do it now while incentives are still available and while rates are still high.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels are made up of solar PV cells made most commonly of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon. The sun’s radiation hits these cells and is converted to direct current (DC) energy. The energy then travels to a device called an inverter where it is converted into alternating current (AC) energy. This energy is the same as the energy produced by your utility company and can directly meet your energy needs. You can sell and export any excess energy you produce back to the National Grid.

Will my roof be suitable for solar panels?

Our knowledge of roofing means that no roof is unworkable, and we offer solutions for a wide range roof finishes. Ideally the slope of the roof should be south-facing but east and west-facing roofs are fine too. North-facing panels will work but are not as efficient.

When will we see the benefit of having solar panels?

Your panels will start generating energy for you to use as soon as they are fitted. You can also start benefitting from Government Feed-In Tariffs. We can provide your business with a projection of the savings and income you can expect from your system.

Is it expensive to install solar panels?

Savings and income outweigh initial costs significantly over the life of the panels. The cost will depend on the size of the system but there are various ways of funding the installation including several with zero capital outlay.

Organisations can purchase the system outright and use the electricity for free as well as benefitting from Government Feed-In Tariffs and Export tariffs. If the system is purchased outright then the payback is approximately six years, although the savings continue after that, so the return of investment over the life of the system justifies the expense.

Alternatively, we can arrange Energy Efficient Finance (EEF), where the combined income and savings generated contributes to paying the system off over a seven year period, and any further income generated is yours as profit.

A Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) allows you to ‘lock in’ cheap energy prices without capital outlay or balance sheet lending. The system is fitted for free and electricity is sold back to you at a minimum of 20% saving on current rates. This is a fixed agreement for 20 years and is index-inked, so the savings against purchasing electricity from traditional suppliers grow exponentially year on year and organisations can benefit from increased green credentials at no expense.

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