What affects the cost of solar panels in the UK?

Posted on 19th Aug 2019 by Ged Ennis

The cost of solar panels always has been – and probably always will be – one of the most influential factors for businesses deciding whether or not to buy them. However, it鈥檚 worth noting that the price of them has actually plummeted in recent years, and now they鈥檙e even more affordable than they used to be; up to 70% cheaper than they were in 2010. It鈥檚 partially for this reason that the end of certain government schemes, incentives and support isn鈥檛 such catastrophic news for most people.

For many businesses, the financial savings offered by commercial solar is often reason enough to consider it. In addition, it can help business enhance their Corporate Social Responsibility, heightening your appeal to customers, investors and business partners. However, planning is vital if you鈥檙e going to maximise the benefits of solar panels, so with that in mind, we鈥檝e listed some of the most influential factors on cost.

Your business and premises

The size of your roof (and the size of your system)

Obviously, in order for a solar panel system to be properly viable, you鈥檙e going to need a certain amount of free space on your roof, and it鈥檚 only natural that a bigger system will require more investment than a smaller one. Some providers will provide the option to choose high-efficiency solar panels, which can allow you to fit more kWp onto a restricted area than you might otherwise be able to with standard panels, though it will cost more to do so.

Your roof orientation

In this context, this is referring to which way your roof faces, rather than its angle as such (although that is a factor, too – just not quite as crucial). A predominantly south-facing roof will maximise the efficiency of your panels, since they鈥檒l be getting the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day. If your roof faces towards the south-west, on the other hand, or it鈥檚 entirely westerly-facing, you鈥檒l still get tangible amounts of savings, but not quite as much as you would have done from a south-facing roof.

The size and type of property

So we鈥檝e covered your building鈥檚 roof fairly extensively, but there are other aspects of it which are important, too. If it鈥檚 a new build, it will often be relatively easy to install the panels, and if it鈥檚 only a single-storey or double-storey building, it will minimise the complexity of the cable run. Essentially, an AC cable always needs to run from the inverter to the consumer unit in order for the solar PV system to work correctly. Smaller buildings tend to make this run shorter and therefore simpler to set up. However, scaffolding may be required on taller buildings, which can immediately have a knock-on effect on the total cost of the system.

Meanwhile, if a building is much older, it can complicate the installation to varying degrees. For example, the roof must undergo an assessment to ensure that it鈥檚 physically capable of supporting the weight of the system, before any installation takes place.

Your exact location (both locally and nationally)

As we touched on above, the amount of energy you save is also affected by the angle of your roof, and it鈥檚 also affected by any shade from nearby trees or buildings. That means in order to save the most with your solar panels, it鈥檚 ideal to have a clear, unrestricted view of the sky. There鈥檚 a reason you don鈥檛 tend to see too many solar panels in built-up urban areas (even though, ideally, that鈥檚 where they鈥檇 be best placed) – if your premises are dwarfed by trees or much taller neighbouring buildings throughout the day, their shadows will limit the amount of sunlight your solar panels are able to absorb.

Your general location in the UK can also make a difference. The southernmost regions of the UK are the ones that tend to get marginally more sunshine than those in the North, which can provide slightly greater savings to those in London over Manchester. However, these differences are relatively negligible, and it鈥檚 certainly not a big enough difference to render solar panels unworthy of the investment for businesses up North!

Your energy profile

The rate of your energy consumption, the way you consume it, and when are all factors which can also influence the cost of your solar PV system. Since solar panels allow you to create your own energy, rather than solely relying on the National Grid, your energy requirements will naturally have a major influence on which solar panel system you choose. Storage batteries often aren鈥檛 a bad idea to consider alongside them, as it can help you better manage the energy you save, for maximum savings.

man working on a solar power mounting with pencil

Materials, systems and approach

The quality of the solar panels and components

Cheap solar panels is a common search term here in the UK, which is understandable. After all, everyone likes to make the most of their budget. However, the price of solar panels isn鈥檛 as important as their quality, and the two are directly correlated more often than not. You鈥檒l need to look beyond short-term costs, and focus your attention on long-term gains. The efficiency and lifespan of your solar panels are two of their most important qualities, and cheap solar panels can鈥檛 always guarantee these in good measure.

You may well find that the cost of maintenance over their lifespan, as well as their reduced efficiency, far outweighs the initial savings you鈥檒l make on buying cheap solar panels. Here at Low Carbon Energy, we鈥檝e always ensured that our offering comprises high-quality, reliable solar panels which match the quality of our experience and expertise, so you can count on them to provide savings for years to come. The same goes for crucial components, such as the inverter.

Mounting frame, roof covering and roof anchors

The mounting frame is an equally crucial bit of your solar panel system; and another key influence on cost is whether it鈥檚 an on-roof or in-roof mounting system. There are also different ways of fixing the solar panel mounting frame to the roof, and certain coverings require exceptional levels of time and care, compared to the relatively straightforward installation process for others. A slate roof, for example, is far more demanding in terms of what鈥檚 required than a concrete tile roof might be.

Any extras

In addition to these pivotal components, any additional components will incur extra cost; for example, any solar immersion controllers, advanced monitoring systems, or solar battery storage systems and if the building itself requires any extra contracting work over the course of the installation.

However, the normal cost of solar panels will account for service and labour, encompassing the design, project management, administration, and the work of installing the frame and solar panels themselves. All of which we鈥檙e pleased to supply in-house right here at Low Carbon Energy! With over 20 years of experience behind us, we鈥檝e got the knowledge, skills and expertise to create and deliver the solar PV solution that鈥檚 perfect for your business, so why not get in touch today? You can give us a call on 01282 421489 – we鈥檒l be happy to see how we can help!

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