A business guide to solar technology and solutions.

Solar technologies have a key role to play in decarbonising our businesses, but many leaders are unsure about whether the technology is right for their operation or how to find the right solution for their specific circumstances.

In this guide we'll unpick some of these barriers to help you understand how solar technology can be a part of your business's net zero action plan, to help you feel equipped to search for and secure a project partner that is right for your needs and understand the likely outcomes of installing solar and other complimentary technologies. 

What is solar? 

Solar technologies harvest the suns energy to create heat or power. The most commonly applied technology is Solar photovoltaic (PV).

Solar PV

Solar PV systems convert energy from the sun into electricity through semi-conductor cells. This system consists of semi-conductor cells connected together and mounted into modules. Modules are connected to an inverter to turn their direct current (DC) output into alternating current (AC) electricity for use in buildings. Photovoltaics supply electricity to the building, with unused energy either sold onto the grid, or stored in a battery for use in the building later. 

PV systems require only daylight, not sunlight to generate electricity (although more electricity is produced with more sunlight), so energy can still be produced in overcast or cloudy conditions.

Solar Thermal or Solar Water heating

These systems use energy from the sun to heat water systems, rather that generating electricity. The panels or solar collectors heat water which transfers to your hot water cylinder, generating free hot water to supplement a heating system like a boiler or heat pump. 

Solar PV-Thermal (PVT)

Solar PV-Thermal panels are combine PV and thermal technologies to provide a hybrid system that generates electricity and heat.  

Solar_geothermal_commercial_property_Gettyimages 671288172
Solar installation process

End to end process of installing solar at your business

To get a complete understanding of the project timescales, costs and outcomes, source a minimum of three installers to quote you for the project. Usually this will determine the feasibility, size, approximate specification and cost of your project, which will be determined by a desktop survey conducted by the supplier. 

Finding a project partner

You can search for solar installers using the Green Economy Marketplace. Explore suppliers by location and expertise. Search here

Assurances and accreditations

  • MCS accreditation - the Microgeneration Certification Scheme is the national quality assurance scheme for renewable installers. Use their directory to check if your installer is accredited. 
  • Trustmark - the government endorsed scheme demonstrates a traders commitment to customer care and quality.

Reviews and recommendations

Research the company and technologies as you would any new purchase. You may find online reviews on Check a Trade or Google can help to influence your decision making. Personal recommendations or advice from others who have been through the process may also be useful. 

Other considerations

When it comes to selecting your supplier, the following checks can help you identify the right partner for your project: 

  • Financial standing (e.g. search the business on Companies House)
  • History of installation
  • Experience of similar installations of the size and scale of your project
  • Evidence of case studies, former clients you can contact. 

Green Economy can help you source a supplier to meet your specification. Get in touch for help and advice. 

Once selected your installer will visit your property to: 

  • carry out a structural survey to ensure the building can cope with the weight and effects of wind
  • access requirements
  • electrical survey so the panels can integrate seamlessly with your existing wiring

On completion of these assessments the installer will fine-tune the specification, timescales and cost of the project. 

Once the revisions are agreed, you supplier will then order the relevant technology (which can be done in tandem with the grid application form) and an installation date can be agreed. 

All new renewable projects putting 16 amps/3.6 kW into the grid require permission from your local District Network Operator (DNO) via a G98 or G99 application. Your supplier will help you to do this. 

In the North West, Electricity North West manage this process and you can review this information guide to understand how to go about this. Find out more

A typical installation will take between two days to two weeks with no business interuption. 

So long as solar panels are monitored and maintained the typical product lifespan is up to 40 years. Most product warrantees last for 10-15 years. 

Your installer may offer an aftercare service which will include a recommended schedule based upon your location/industry. 

Frequently asked questions

Cost will be dictated by the size and complexity of the system, but as an indication, a small office installation of around 5-9kW should cost around £8-10k. An industrial premises or large scale installation of around 100kW system might cost in the region of £100k. 

Whilst the cost of installation and products has increased in line with inflation over the past year, the payback period means that projects are much more affordable than they were around 3-5 years ago. 

Additional costs to consider when installing solar

In addition to the installation and maintenance there may be additional costs that the project will incur. These include: 

  1. Grid application fee - visit the National Grid website to get the latest costs and note that any changes to your application will incur an additional cost. 
  2. Depending on the results of your application, there may be reinforcement works to manage connection to grid which will incur additional costs. You may need to complete a Export Limitation Scheme Application form to ensure that you adhere to the ER G100, ER G98 and G99 standards. There is more information about this on the National Grid website
  3. Situation and access - the installation may require scaffolding or other safety and access equipment. 
  4. Battery and EV charge points - optional additional technology that complements and may maximise the value of your solar installation.

In almost all cases your supplier will manage this process for you. This information is mostly to help you understand the total project costs and how they could increase. 

Search for local, trusted suppliers on Green Economy's Marketplace who can help you to understand the feasibility and cost on your premises. 

Search Green Economy's Marketplace

Return on investment

Returns have dramatically improved in the past three years due to the increase in energy prices. Now most customers see a return on investment from solar within four years, with some businesses on high energy tariffs seeing a return within two years. 

You can expect to reduce energy bills by a third by installing solar technologies, but how quickly you will see return on your investment will be dictated by: 

  • the size of the roof
  • the orientation of the roof
  • how efficient your building is.

The Energy Saving Trust Solar Energy Calculator estimates fuel bill savings and financial payments for the property, but for a more accurate calculation speak to an energy management specialist.

Search for a local supplier on the Green Economy Marketplace. 

Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)

This scheme enables businesses to sell excess renewable power to electricity suppliers. The scheme is applicable for solar PV installations in Great Britain meeting the eligibility criteria. Ofgem publishes an annual list of suppliers, but it is recommended to research providers for the best tariff.

Ofgem's guide to SEG

A typical 50kW installation will take approximately a week with no interruption to business. Larger projects may take longer, but disruption will be minimal as work will mostly take place outside the property. 

Businesses looking to invest in solar can consider a variety of ways to fund these activity, from drawing on reserves, subsidies and local grant schemes. 

A self funded solar PV system will achieve the greatest return on investment, but if you do not have the available capital, the below options can be considered: 

Green finance

A loan or investment which can be used to pay for environmental activity like the scope, design, and/or installation of solar panels on your property, is typically available through your bank, lenders or high-street banks etc. 

Solar lease

Your installation partner may offer financial package where there is no capital outlay upfront, and you enter lease agreement. You will pay a fixed monthly charge for the use of the panels and the power you use and will own the solar panels after a fixed term. 

Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

These agreements are with a third party who will own and install the panels on your property, for no or a limited cost and charge you a fixed rate per kilowatt used. They are typically long-term and index linked, so the cost may rise over time. 


Yes, check your tenancy agreement and speak to your landlord. 

Present a business case to your landlord by addressing: 

  • length of tenancy - if you're a long-term tenant and your landlord would like you to stay
  • improving the buildings efficiency, energy consumption and carbon footprint
  • complying with minimum energy efficiency standards and EPC regulations
  • shared savings 
  • shared capital outlay
  • reduced risk  

Community ownership

Some businesses and communities look at shared ownership models to create a local self-generation scheme. Find out more about this via your local District Network Operator. 

Electricity North West - Community projects


Solar panels are mostly manufactured in China, and much like other imports, has faced delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK's exit from the European Union, as well as increased demand linked to rising energy prices.

This has greatly improved in recent months, with the waiting period going from a matter of months, to a matter of weeks. 



Solar panels will need to be maintained (cleaned and checked) at least annually, but this will depend on the location of the property. If your facility is by the coast, a motorway or an industrial location, it may require more frequent maintenance to ensure optimum capability. 

Pay attention to monitoring systems

The first clue that something isn't right will be changes reported by the monitoring system. Your installer will likely offer a maintenance package, which may include alerts if any systems go down. If this isn't included then it will need to be managed internally,  

Solar panels last for approximately 25 years, with a product warrantee usually between 10-15 years. 

The product lifetime in reality is around 35-40 years. The electrical output from the panels will very slowly degrade over this period at a rate between 0.2-0.4 per cent per year.

Energy efficiency

The impact of solar generation will not be as significant if a business has not considered making energy efficiency improvements before installing solar. By focusing on how your business is using energy, and when its using energy that it shouldn't be using, you'll be able to reap greater rewards from your energy generation technology and it will also be cheaper to install as you will require a smaller system.

The first port of call is to obtain half hourly electricity data, to work out the consumptions averages and identify the times when you're using power that you potentially could stop. At the end of a shift, or before the business closes for the weekend, by walking round and checking that things that don't need to be on, are switched off, a business can make significant savings. 

During winter the profile of solar generation will be lower, so businesses can make adjustments to how they manage energy use.

Find out more about energy management tools to help you do this

Environmental regulations

Solar will significantly improve your reporting for environmental regulations including: 

  • Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards regulation - improved EPC rating
  • Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) is a mandatory for businesses with either more than 250 employees or an annual turnover of £44 million. 
    Find out more

Energy Security

The more solar you generate the less prone to fluctuations in energy prices and variability of energy supply you will be. In addition, if your business is remotely located and prone to blackouts or shortages, solar (especially with batteries) will help you to mitigate these risks and be self-reliant. 

Yes, because you will still be classed as a generator working in parallel with the network for safety purposes in the event of a power cut. 

Solar will generate between 10-40% of your energy requirement, depending on your energy consumption and the installation size. We have supported businesses that have run three production lines just on their solar energy, throughout the summer months, meaning no purchase of energy from the grid during this time. 

Solar in combination with battery storage and energy management software can offer greater returns. 

Demystifying solar

Watch a recording of Green Economy's webinar on Demystifying solar, to hear from experts about the process of procuring and installing solar. Chaired by Katherine Burden, Business Development Lead at Green Economy, the panel include:

  • Kes Scott, Commercial Director, KAST Renewable Energies - green technologies installation firm specialising in commercial solar projects
  • Shayne Wilson, Head of Sales, The Pilot Group - energy management system providers which enhances the energy savings from solar technologies
  • Tim Rastall, Chief Technical Officer, Enspec Power - electrical engineering specialising in renewable installations
  • Gareth Simkins, Senior Communications Adviser, Solar Energy UK - national trade body for solar technologies

Additional resources

What is Energy Management?

Understand the terminology used when talking about energy efficiency, where to start, and the technology that can be implemented to generate savings and reduce energy consumption.

Make five sustainable changes

Here are five sustainable changes you can make for you and your business to decarbonise and invest in our planet.  

Demystifying net zero

Take a look at our resources and access our services to get support on your journey to net zero.