Solarcentury report lifts lid on UK commercial solar potential

Published in conjunction with real estate investment firm JLL, a new Solarcentury report highlights the positive impact that solar PV installations can have on the performance of U.K. commercial property.

Not only is a PV installation an effective way of reducing energy bills and running costs, but done correctly a rooftop array can increase the value of a commercial property, says the report.

A lack of knowledge of how to benefit from solar PV installations has historically created a disjointed commercial market in the U.K., but JLL researchers demonstrate that the Discounted Cash Flow method – which reflects the most robust analysis of the associated revenue streams and costs of rooftop solar – is the best course of action for many British businesses.

With a projected 60% increase in electricity prices by 2024, and with the 2019 EU zero carbon requirement for commercial buildings deadline looming, more and more businesses in the U.K. are exploring solar as a preferred future energy source.

Leading British retailer Sainsbury’s has already set the pace, having successfully installed 135,500 PV panels atop the roofs of 218 stores, and the company targets 170,000 panels in total by next Spring – a figure that would give the retailers 40 MW of installed rooftop capacity in the U.K.

With British support for solar at an all-time high, and other leading brands such as Mars, IKEA, Apple and Google following suit in the U.K. in installing commercial PV arrays, the sector could soar in 2015.

Concerns over legislation, impact on property values and efficacy of arrays is being assuaged by regular consultation between the solar industry and the real estate sector, with this report laying bare the economic benefits of installing a rooftop PV array.

"While most of the growth to date in the U.K. rooftop solar market has been at the domestic scale and utility scale, there is strong evidence that commercial and industrial customers are now turning to solar, helped by the fact the technology is ready, affordable, and that attitudes are now changing," said Solarcentury CEO Frans van den Heuvel.

The head of sustainability, engineering, energy and environment at Sainsbury’s, Paul Crewe, remarked that the retailer is now the largest multi-roof solar panel operator in Europe. "This," he says, "is key to enabling us to take control of our energy costs and minimize our environmental impact and achieve the environmental commitments we made in our 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan."

The plan sets out 20 sustainability targets the company must achieve by 2020, of which one is a 30% absolute reduction in carbon emissions – part of a broader target of an absolute carbon reduction of 50% by 2030.

Chris Strathon, JLL’s director in valuation, added: “This is the first in-depth research into understanding the impact of solar and it is clear the majority of commercial roof space is untapped as an additional revenue source."

Strathon said that the report highlights how rooftop solar on commercial property adds value by improving the marketability of a property to occupiers who "are driven by cost or CSR objectives", generating an additional income via government-backed support schemes (FIT) and power purchase agreements with local utilities.