1) Big Reductions in Electricity Overheads
Ireland has some of the highest electricity prices in Europe. This is a major reason why solar energy is financially attractive here. Solar energy is a great match for businesses in particular. Specifically, most businesses use a lot of power in the middle of the day, right when solar panels perform best. This helps you maximise solar energy utilisation. Additionally, solar helps you avoid peak daytime electricity tariffs. Overall, savings and returns on investment can be very attractive.
More specifically, Irish businesses can get around 30% of their electricity needs from solar panels. With day/night metering, that can mean savings as high as 35-40% on bills. Solar also protects you from rising electricity prices. This is especially important as carbon taxes increase.
These savings typically translate into a return on investment of 10-15% per year. However, returns can be as high 25% if you qualify for a grant. Which brings us on to reason #2 for Irish businesses to go solar: Grants
2) Commercial Solar Panel Grants
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland provide several grants that cover solar panels for businesses. The most popular one is the Better Energy Communities (BEC) scheme. With the BEC, you partner with other organisations in your local area to receive a grant of 30%.
For large companies, the EXCEED grant is also an option. EXCEED also provides a grant rate of 30%. Unfortunately though, EXCEED is not suitable for small businesses due to the arduous application process. You can receive either the BEC or the EXCEED grant but not both.
You can also claim the Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA) on solar panel investments. This gives you 12.5% of your investment back as corporation tax savings. The key to the ACA is that you get all the tax benefits up front. Alternatively, the Wear and Tear Allowance provides the same saving, but spread out over 8 years. With the ACA and a grant, your total financial incentive can be as high as 42.5%.
3) Zero-Cost Solar Energy With Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)
With PPAs it’s now possible to start saving with solar from day one, with zero up-front investment. Here’s how it works:
- You provide space on the roof of your premises for solar panels
- The solar company installs the solar panels at their own expense
- You can then buy the electricity that the panels produce at a discounted price
The great advantage of PPAs is that you see bigger profits and cash flows from the very first day. On the other hand, owning the panels outright gives you the greatest savings over the long run.
4) Installation of Commercial Solar Panels is Fast and Convenient
The installation process for a commercial solar panel system typically takes less than one week. Better still, 99% of the work can be done from outside. This means that disturbance to your business will be minimal. The only new equipment needed indoors will be a DC-AC inverter (about the size of an old-style computer tower). This can be located in an out-of-the-way location like your attic.
The roof types used on commercial buildings make the solar installation process especially easy. On one hand, solar panels can be quickly and securely fastened to a trapezoidal metal roof. On the other hand, flat roofs allow for a convenient and flexible ballasted mounting system. This all helps to keep costs down for you.
5) Solar Enhances Your Brand Image
Tech giants Facebook and Amazon have announced 100% renewable electricity targets for 2025 or before. While the move is mainly about cost reduction, they haven’t been shy about using their progress for good PR. You can also win favour with customers by demonstrating your corporate responsibility with solar energy. Don’t get left behind!
6) Planning Permission Exemptions for Commercial Solar Panels
The Irish government provides conditional planning exemptions for commercial solar panels. For commercial and light industrial premises, the exemption is for up to 50 m2 of panels. That’s enough to generate around €3,500 worth of electricity per year. For industrial buildings there’s no area limit. S.I. No. 235 of 2008 has all the details.