Whilst creating a sustainable business is a key commercial goal for many organisations, some face difficulties when it comes to weighing up the environmental benefits with economic feasibility.
A business has many factors to consider when taking steps to becoming sustainable, and utilities, such as electricity, are an important one.
As the world as a whole also aims to minimise environmental damage, many initiatives have been introduced to help businesses to operate more sustainably. A major example is the access and use of renewable sources of energy to generate electricity, and as technology advances, so do the sources.
Solar energy is a widely accepted renewable source that has been tried and tested for decades. In more recent years, an increasing number of businesses and households across the UK have started to harness solar energy to generate their electricity. In this article,we explain how you can too.
How does solar energy work?
During daylight hours, the sun releases energy, called photons, which travel to earth in the form of light. These solar particles can be captured and used to produce emission-free electricity by converting them into a flow of electrons. These electrons can then be used to charge batteries and power other electronic devices.
The most common and effective way of doing this is through photovoltaic systems, also known as solar panels.These panels are made from a semi-conductive material so that when they are exposed to light, a voltage is created.
Large panels which generate electricity in volume are typically placed in fields or on rooftops. These usually create enough electricity to power the building or can contribute to the UK’s power grid. Panels can also be attached directly to smaller electronic devices in order to power them.
How does solar energy affect the environment?
The production of solar energy causes very little damaging environmental impact. Sourced from the sun and emitting no greenhouse gasses during electricity production, solar energy is a completely renewable source of energy.
The silicon material used to create the panels is geologically sourced, which also causes minimal damage to the planet, explaining exactly why solar energy is a good step towards becoming sustainable and reducing your carbon footprint.
With the many advantages of solar energy, it is no surprise that it is becoming the fastest-growing source of renewable energy for both commercial and personal use.
Solar energy for businesses
When making any business decisions relating to expenditure, many factors come into play. The business’ long term goals and current capabilities are key considerations.
When it comes to switching to renewable energy sources for your business utilities, there are a couple of options available. These include installing your own solar panels or taking out a contract for renewable electricity from a supplier.
Installing your own solar panels
One of the biggest deterrents of installing solar panels is the high initial cost as they notoriously require large investment capital. However, by taking a long-term view, cost savings can be made as they hold greater lifetime value.
While solar panels do not technically store energy themselves, any electricity produced in excess can be stored in rechargeable batteries for use in times when the panels are not active, such as at night.
How much energy does a solar panel produce?
The amount of energy a solar panel produces varies depending on the amount of panels included in the installation, the direction of their tilt and the geographical location. In the UK, solar panels should face the south to generate the best results. On average, one kilowatt of panels can produce between 700 – 900 kWh of electricity per year.
Therefore, the impact this will have on your business’ energy usage will depend on the size of your installation, as a larger system that includes more panels will generate more electricity. A business can benefit from entire or partial usage of the solar energy they produce.
The availability of space is a common problem as some businesses operate in shared premises. Similarly, in rented offices, the decision most likely lies with the landlord and not the business, posing further challenges.
In these circumstances, the better option is to take out a contract for renewable energy from a supplier.
Green energy tariffs
Many of today’s energy suppliers offer the option of green energy whereby the electricity supplied to you has been sourced from a renewable source, such as solar.
However, green energy is often priced at a higher tariff to typical nonrenewable supply so, understandably, many businesses may face conflict when considering a costlier switch when there are cheaper alternatives available.
How much does solar energy cost?
When considering a switch to a renewable source, whether by installing solar panels or choosing a green tariff, the amount it will cost you per year and how much you can save with solar energy depends on the individual needs and functions of the business.
Despite a high initial cost or steeper tariff, the long term benefits of green energy are much greater. Any energy produced by a solar panel installation that has not been used by the business can be sold to suppliers, generating additional income for the business and helping the economy in the process.
Additionally, once a solar panel has been fitted, there are no recurring costs, with an exception of a few, relatively low maintenance expenses. Ultimately, the value received from the energy produced by a solar panel can off-set any of these fees.
And this is not forgetting the reputational benefits too. ‘Going green’ is something a business can be proud of, and in an age of rising ethical consumers, this could work in a business’ favour by attracting new customers and clients.
Advantages and disadvantages of solar energy
There are clearly some advantages and disadvantages of solar energy.When making any decision, the long-term impact and ultimate business values, missions and vision should be driving factors. If the business is on a mission to become sustainable, or even net-zero, investments into solar energy can be extremely beneficial and will in most cases, outweigh any disadvantages.
If your business is considering a switch to renewable energy, comparing suppliers can help you find the best deals available. Smarter Business takes all the hard work out of comparing suppliers and gives you all the important information required to make an informed decision. Get your comparison for renewable business electricity deals here.