Solar Q&A

What are the obstacles holding back home owners and businesses from switching to solar?

The greatest obstacle holding businesses back from switching to solar power is capital cost. That is why Kingspan Energy has launched a fully-funded solution, to remove this barrier for owners and occupiers of large buildings.

Another obstacle is roof condition. A large percentage of the UK’s solar-eligible roofs are reaching end of life, and therefore would not last for the investment term associated with a PV system (typically 25 years). In these cases, the roof needs upgrading prior to the PV system’s deployment, adding further capital cost. Kingspan Energy offers a holistic cost-optimal re-roof and solar PV solution, which can help alleviate this issue – making the most of the operational cost savings associated with the new and improved roof, while offsetting the increased capital cost of its installation.

The landlord/tenant divide is another issue. Some landlords want to make the investment but are unable to gain approval from their long-term tenants, while some tenants want to sign up to a PPA agreement (as part of a fully-funded solar PV package) but are unable to engage their landlord in this.

Finally, grid connection capacity is a big barrier to widespread solar adoption. The limits of the current network and the difficulties in getting approval to connect a scheme are holding back many additional potential projects.

What training is necessary to install solar panels, and is this enough?

To install solar PV on commercial and industrial rooftops, it is paramount that installers undergo comprehensive training on the different mounting systems relevant to the various roof types and profiles. Training is key to ensure that the structural integrity and weathertightness of the roof is not compromised by the installation of the rooftop PV system.

The relevant Health and Safety training of PV Installers is also an absolute must. On commercial and industrial building projects, the installers will be working on busy operational sites, at significant height, and making extensive use of mechanical lifting equipment.

We also believe that expertise in roofs, and not just solar PV panels, is vital. Any rooftop solar PV system should be looked at in harmony with the roof in order to avoid unnecessary and potentially costly structural issues.

Latest reports from energy experts have revealed that ten million homes in the UK should have their roofs covered with solar panels in the next six years, if the country is to fulfill its renewable energy potential to produce 40% of the country’s electricity needs using solar – how realistic is this?

Installing rooftop solar PV on homes should be an important part of the renewable energy mix, but we believe that there is a simpler way to achieve our energy targets. Our own research has shown the potential of commercial and industrial roofs, which offer a far less complicated outlook than ten million smaller domestic installations. Installing fully-funded rooftop solar PV systems like our own on just 61% of the UK’s south-facing commercial and industrial roofspace would generate enough electricity to cover the entire annual demand for British businesses, and save approximately £5bn per year in the process.

New research suggests the panels function more efficiently when they face east-west. Should the UK start installing east-west-facing panels to eliminate unnecessary energy spikes and waste during the day, as Germany has done? What does this research mean for the future of the solar industry?

It is true that the panels may work more efficiently being laid out in this fashion, on account of their peak operation being in the morning and evening when conversion efficiencies will be higher. They will, however, generate less electricity over the course of a year compared to south-facing installations, because of the lower amount of overall incident radiation. Adopting the German model may be necessary at some point in the future, but the solar deployment situation in the UK today is not yet at the same level as in Germany.

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