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New solar guide launched for commercial applications

The BRE and REA's solar PV on commercial buildings guide explains the key benefits and areas to consider for commercial building owners and tenants when considering new installations. Image: BRE.

The BRE and REA's solar PV on commercial buildings guide explains the key benefits and areas to consider for commercial building owners and tenants when considering new installations. Image: BRE.

A comprehensive guide has been launched to help commercial building owners and tenants take advantage of the benefits of solar PV systems on their properties, outlining the business case for new installations.

The new guide for owners and developers has been released by the BRE National Solar Centre in partnership with the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and includes a range of scenarios to suit a number of commercial applications.

It explains the various processes for self-owned or leased properties, as well as funding options through self-financing or power purchase agreements (PPAs) agreed with third parties.

Acting as an aid for those looking to their carbon footprint and gain control over their on-going energy costs, the guide also explains how to make the business case for new solar installations. It outlines the various financial gains to be made from having solar, such as avoided electricity purchase costs, as well as those less tangible benefits including meeting CSR commitments and positive press.

It also cautions against some of the pitfalls of solar, particularly the reduced revenue streams associated with the feed-in tariff, suggesting that the business case should be capable of standing up without the benefit of the FIT generation tariff.

However, it argues that the benefits of a regular supply of electricity at a fixed price under the PPA model, as well as any associated revenue streams and other benefits, make solar a good proposition for commercial entities.

Gaynor Hartnell, advisor to the REA, said: “This guide tells landlords and tenants all they need to know about having solar PV installed. It comes with a downloadable financial model to help develop the business case.

“With solar PV, companies can have more control of their energy supplies, manage their costs and cut down on their carbon emissions.”

In addition, the guide offers advice on the legal structure and regulations attached to a number of different solar applications as well as details of leasing considerations, planning and grid connections as well as a number of case studies.

Since the policy reset at the beginning of the year that saw FiT rates severely cut across all sizes of solar schemes, commercial applications have emerged as a key area of activity in the UK. PPA deals have emerged as an important funding option for businesses, while initiatives like the RE100 have seen corporates pledge to use 100% renewable energy and sparked a considerable number of new installations.

The rapidly growing awareness of the benefits of solar in conjunction with energy storage and management systems is also leading to a significant growth area, not least as it is expected to save businesses and the country billions by 2035.

However, an ongoing review of business rates which could see the taxes applied to self-owned solar installations increase eight fold could stall this momentum of businesses looking to own their own solar. However, if the changes were enacted in April 2017, it could lead to even greater PPA activity, as the increased charges would not apply to third-party owned systems.