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Renewable energy is becoming increasingly important in our society, and as such, sustainable technologies are more readily available to everyday consumers. The increasing number of homeowners who install solar panels is testament to this.

But, it’s not just households who need to consider taking steps towards sustainability – it’s important for businesses, too. Solar panels, plus a host of other green energy alternatives, are relatively widely available for businesses to use, and more and more are beginning to take advantage of this.

Thanks to a range of funding schemes and grants, sustainable energy options are now available to a wide range of businesses with varying budgets, from large corporations to SMEs.

What are the benefits of solar energy for businesses?

Environmental benefits

This is probably the first advantage that springs to mind when you think of solar panels. By investing in and using a sustainable energy source, you’re helping to:

  • Reduce your business’s environmental footprint
  • Reduce the country’s dependence imported energy
  • Reduce overall dependence on finite resources
  • Promote sustainability to others
  • Ensure growth and economic wellbeing in the future

Financial benefits

Energy bills can be one of the biggest expenses for a company. For small businesses in particular, it can be even more important to stay on top of your bills. Despite the initial expense, investing in solar panels for your business will have a positive impact on your bottom line and your business’s finances overall.

You’ll save money, because buying less energy from the grid means you’ll see a very quick reduction in your electricity bill. Making such an investment in energy efficiency will also probably make you more conscious of the amount of electricity your business is using, and so you may find that you use less just by being more mindful of it.

You can also earn money, by selling excess energy back to the grid through a feed-in energy tariff. Overall, solar panels provide a good return on your initial investment.

Branding benefits

There are also a number of reputation-boosting benefits that can come with changing to solar energy. There’s an increasing demand for green products and services, and green businesses - if you can show consumers that your company is invested in sustainability, you can reap a number of benefits, including:

  • An upper hand against non-green competitors
  • Positive advertising and PR opportunities
  • A ‘green’ marketing angle

How much does solar panel installation cost?

The cost depends on the type of system you choose. A small-scale solar photovoltaic system costs around £5,000-£10,000, and usually takes between six and ten years to pay back. Solar thermal energy usually costs £3,000-£5,000, and takes about five years to pay back.

Before you install any system, check whether you need commercial solar PV planning permission. It’s also worth checking if you can cut costs with free solar panels for businesses - if not, there are a number of funding options available to cut costs:

  • Feed-In Tariffs (FIT) scheme - If you generate electricity from a renewable or low-carbon source, your energy supplier can pay you for the energy. This means you’ll save money on your electricity bill, as you’ll use your own electricity, and can offset your FITs income against your bills.
  • Renewable Heat Incentive - This provides financial support for the installation of renewable heat alternatives. Almost all of the renewable energy technologies outlined above can be covered with funding by this.
  • Enhanced Capital Allowances - If you invest in certain energy-saving equipment, you can write off the total cost of the equipment against your taxable profit as a 100% first-year capital allowance.
  • The Green Deal - This allows you to pay for the cost of implementing energy-saving technologies through savings on your energy bills.
  • Salix Finance - This is a government-funded scheme providing interest free loans to public sector organisations to carry out energy efficiency improvements.
  • Power Purchase Agreement - An agreement with a private funder, who will buy the generated energy at a set rate. They’ll own the renewable energy system and claim subsidy rewards.
  • Lease Purchase Agreement - You rent the technology and pay for it using the income earned from government subsidies. After the lease is paid, you take ownership of the system.
  • Business loan - You’ll own the system and pay back the loan over an agreed time period. Your bank may give you more preferential rates and terms than a lease purchase provider.
  • Client funded - You pay in full at the time of installation, and you can claim the government subsidy rewards for 20 years.

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