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Is it time to install solar panels on your warehouse roof?

Soaring energy costs are impacting UK businesses and there is unlikely to be any noticeable relief in 2023. Despite Government initiatives like the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, it will be a continuing burden. Some energy-saving measures might help you to contain some costs but if prices continue to rise, profits will dwindle. Is it time to consider a solar solution? 

Where are we with solar?

Solar energy solutions for warehouses are becoming more attractive and affordable in the current economic climate.  Until recently, the growth in this sector has been slow due to various supply market factors, regulations and affordability.  In the UK only 5% of warehouses currently have any solar panels on their roofs. Where panels have been installed, they usually only cover 10% to 25% of the available space. The issue has been mainly about cost and financing, but prices are coming down and more investment avenues are opening. 

If a third of all warehouses in the UK utilise solar generation on their roofs, they could double the UK’s solar capacity and also, deliver the entire requirement for the UK’s 2030 target. This is one of the findings from a recent research report by the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA). It highlights the potential benefits of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on the nation’s warehouse rooftops

Advantages of solar power

The case for solar is becoming more compelling. Reduced energy bills in the future are the main advantage but there are others:

  • Energy security and flexibility. Electricity can be stored in batteries for later use, reserved for power outages, or sold to other users.   
  • More accurate budgeting as solar energy costs are not exposed to market-related price increases
  • Low maintenance. PV panels have a lifespan of > 25 years
  • Energy is generated during daylight hours when electricity tariffs are higher
  • Supports sustainability goals. Solar contributes greatly to the reduction in the lowering greenhouse gas emissions through less use of fossil fuels. It is a contributor to your organisation’s ESG targets.
  • Roof area that is not utilised in wasted space could be monetised.
  • Solar power will benefit the growth of the number of electric-driven vehicles in the warehouse.

Drawbacks of solar

Financing solar power systems and the cost of equipment and its installation have been the main drawbacks but that is changing.  The payback period of a solar installation is between 3 – 5 years. This means that it is probably not a solution for a tenant with a short lease period.  Seasonal variations in power requirements must be allowed for. This can be partially offset by selling excess power in sunnier months and using the funds to purchase any shortage of electricity in poor weather.    

The cost of a rooftop solar solution

Costs are made up of equipment, installation and commissioning. The elements include:

  • The supply and installation of PV solar panels
  • The supply of storage batteries and inverters
  • Cabling
  • Testing and certification of the installation
  • Financing costs and insurance
  • Administration costs including registration

What to consider when considering a solar solution

  • Your roof designs. Some roofs are more suitable than others. South-facing is preferred. Weight is a consideration as are flat or plastic roofs.
  • Your power requirement. Most of the electrical power used in warehouses is for lighting, heating, refrigeration and power for light vehicles. Solar can provide a sizable portion of your needs. Excess energy generated can be stored in batteries for use at other times or sold to the grid.

Future developments in solar

The government published the UK Energy Security Strategy in April 2022. One of the proposals was for a five-fold increase in solar generation by 2035. Clare Bottle, Chief Executive of UKWA says “UKWA is calling on the government to support the sector in embracing solar PV systems.” The distribution and warehousing sector is embracing more electrification with transport fleets, forklifts and other mechanical handling equipment (MHE), automation, and robotics, all of which will drive up the requirement for low-cost, sustainable electricity. There are planning approval initiatives afoot that may require PV panels to be installed on all large commercial developments in the future.

The next steps

The solar industry has grown to include more products, multiple players and financing options. It is becoming difficult to find the best solution for you. As preparation,

  • calculate your energy consumption over one year from your bills
  • establish if your roof is suitable for a solar installation
  • contact your local authority to ensure you don’t need planning permission

What the Supply Chain Consulting Group can do for you

Our role is to assist you to find a solution that suits your needs and is within your budget. We work with you to consider all alternative solutions and service providers.  We have no affiliation with any vendor. We help you decide which type and size of installation you need using your energy bills and available suitable warehouse roof area as input. SCCG can provide guidance only or project-manage your installation and ensure compliance with regulations.  

If you’d like to learn more about how The Supply Chain Consulting Group can assist you, click here to send a direct enquiry to us.

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