1. Home
  2. Business Energy Suppliers
  3. Commercial Solar Panels: Are They Worth It?
Published 18 April 2023
Reading Time
5 minutes

Commercial Solar Panels: Are They Worth It?

The environmental benefits of commercial solar panels are obvious, but it’s wise to weigh up the pros and cons and understand the installation process before going ahead.

We could all do with being greener when it comes to our energy, along with finding ways to reduce energy bills. 

One potentially energy-efficient avenue for businesses is solar panels. But are solar panels for commercial buildings worth it?

We look at how commercial solar panels work, what planning permission you might need, and the likely cost.

» MORE: Your quick guide to business energy in the UK

How do commercial solar panels work?

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels convert sunlight into electrical energy, which can then be used to power your business.

Not only that, if you are based in Great Britain, you can potentially also sell the energy you generate to the National Grid, thanks to the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). In Northern Ireland, you can sell excess power your solar panels generate to Power NI.

Do I need planning permission for commercial solar panels?

In most cases, you do not need planning permission for solar panels on commercial buildings. Even so, it’s important to check to avoid a costly mistake.

Even if you do not need planning permission, you will still need to meet certain requirements and limits. These include rules around how far solar panels can stick out from the wall or roof they are installed on, and the distance from the edge of the wall or roof.

The full list of requirements and limits for England and Wales can be found at the government’s Planning Portal website here. For more information on planning rules in Scotland, visit ePlanning Scotland, while for Northern Ireland contact NIdirect.

If you rent or the property is leasehold, you may need to get permission from your landlord or the freeholder of the building before installing commercial solar panels.

Commercial solar panel installation explained

Depending on the size of your commercial property, there will be a number of different steps to the installation process before you get to fixing on the panels. 

Here are the steps you will most likely need to take, though the order can depend on the company you use:

  1. Due diligence will need to be carried out to make sure that your building can actually support the solar panels. 
  2. Your energy use, and your aims when it comes to renewable energy, may also be evaluated, to help decide on the most suitable panel system.
  3. Blueprints and proposals will need to be drawn up that are suitable for the exact specifications of your business and the commercial building in question.
  4. Once the proposal is approved, the solar panels will need to be constructed and physically installed. This could take anything from weeks to a few months, depending on the size and scope of the project. Factor in some disruption to your regular business activities.
  5. The final stage is the commissioning phase. This is when the installer confirms that the commercial solar panels have been fitted correctly, and electrical checks are carried out. If all is OK, your installer will contact your district network operator to get your system connected to the electricity network.

How much do commercial solar panels cost in the UK?

This is the big question: cost. And there’s no simple answer.

How much commercial solar panels will cost depends on the size of your commercial building, the level of kilowatt output it requires, and which company you choose to install the panels. This means the solar panels alone can range anywhere between £16,000 and £70,000 for small-to medium-sized businesses.

You’ll also need to factor in VAT, and the costs of the installation itself, which can run into the thousands, depending on the size of the installation.

Consider long-term savings

You may also want to consider how much money you could save after they are installed. Although it may take a while to recoup the upfront installation costs – commercial solar panels are a long-term investment – over time, you should hopefully end up in the green.

What starts as a few pence per kilowatt hour can add up to hundreds and thousands of pounds in savings per year.

You’ll break even more quickly if you are eligible to benefit from a Smart Export Guarantee tariff, and can sell your energy to the grid.

Pros and cons of commercial solar panels

Before buying commercial solar panels, it is important to weigh up their advantages and disadvantages, and how they might apply to your business.

Benefits of commercial solar panels

Some of the key advantages of installing solar panels at your business premises include:

  • saving money on your business electricity bills each year
  • reducing some of the stress of energy price crises, as you are less reliant on external energy suppliers
  • making your business greener and more energy efficient
  • the opportunity to create a new revenue stream by selling the excess electricity your PV panels generate
  • potentially boosting the value of your commercial property

Disadvantages of commercial solar panels

However, you should be aware of the following when it comes to commercial solar panels:

  • It can take years before you recoup the upfront costs for solar panel installation.
  • You will need a smart meter installed at your commercial building to be able to export energy.
  • You will need a large amount of space to install the solar panels, so it won’t be viable for every business.

Image source: Getty Images

Dive even deeper

11 Tips to Save Money on Business Energy

11 Tips to Save Money on Business Energy

Energy prices are rising and your business may be feeling the pinch. Below, we look at ways to save money on your business energy bills, ranging from short-term switches to long-term solutions.

Business Energy Bills: Tariffs, Rates and Prices

Business Energy Bills: Tariffs, Rates and Prices

Business energy can be confusing. Whether it’s the range of business energy tariffs on offer, charges on your bill, or the factors that affect wholesale prices, there is a lot to unpack. But knowing what’s what can help you get the right deal for your business.

A Quick Guide to Business Energy in the UK

A Quick Guide to Business Energy in the UK

It can be easy to assume that business energy and domestic energy work in the same way. However, there are important differences between the two that you should get to grips with if you run your own business. Read on for more about how business energy works in the UK.

Back To Top