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Is renewable energy right for your business?

Energy in homes makes up for a quarter of the amount of energy consumed in the UK, with the rest used by businesses. That might not sound surprising, but the amount businesses spend on energy a year is. In one month a medium sized businesses spends over £5000 on energy, large business spend over £12,000 and industrial businesses spend over £30,000.1

Removing or reducing unnecessary cost will always be a key business priority. And with the government setting an objective of providing 15% of the UK’s energy needs from renewable sources by 20202 it might be worth investigating if renewable energy could reduce your bills and help power your business.

Energy options for your business

Insulating your buildings to save money
If you run your business from an old property, it may not have cavity, wall or roof insulation. And if it doesn’t, you could be losing up to 30% of the buildings heat through the walls alone. Consider how much money that is costing. Equally, if you operate from a more modern building and have air conditioning, insulation can reduce the impact of high external temperatures, reducing the amount of cooling needed.3

As well as retaining and helping to stabilise a buildings temperature, insulation is one of the main ways of reducing your buildings carbon emissions. It’s worth considering, especially as adequate insulation is needed to qualify for government grants for further renewable energy options such as solar panels.

Is your building right for solar panels?
Any commercial property can benefit from rooftop solar panels, either on flat or pitched roofs. However, the general condition of the roof in question and its aspect would determine whether it was viable or not. Key things you need to know:

  1. Flat roofs need more space per megawatt as you need to have sufficient distance between panels to avoid shading.
  2. The optimum angle on a south facing roof is 15º - 35º for maximum yield depending on the pitch of the roof.
  3. You can position panels east to west, but they provide less energy when compared to south facing panels.
  4. You could face some legal challenges such as “Right to Light”, listed building constraints and planning objections. So make sure you can negate these issues before you invest financially.
  5. Don’t forget to consider insurance implications in terms of an increased fire hazard, snow loading and risks to employees or others accessing the roof for maintenance etc.
  6. If you’re intending to fit panels on your building, you may qualify for a grant using the governments Feed in Tariff (FiT). However, the scheme will close to new entrants in 2019. With this in mind, make sure you calculate the costs without FiT payments in case your project isn’t eligible.

If your project doesn’t qualify for FiT, it may still be feasible. A combination of solar panels becoming more available, reduction in the cost of the technology in recent years and increased efficiency means installing panels is not as expensive as it used to be.

Could you heat your office with heat pumps?
There are two types of heat pumps, air and ground. Essentially an air source heat pump is a backwards fridge. It takes the energy stored in air outside and transfers it through a coil system, which contains fluid. This creates a warm liquid that can be used to heat radiators and underfloor heating systems. Ground source heat pumps do the same job but use the energy stored in the ground instead. A loop system of fluid-filled piping is put in the ground up to two metres below the surface. But if there is not enough space around your building, you could install a vertical loop. This goes into the ground to a depth of up to 100m depending on where the thermal heat pocket is.

While you’d be sourcing heat from the air or ground, you do still need electricity to run the pumps. But it’s worth knowing that for each kWh of electricity used to run the heat pump, three to four kWh of heat could be provided to your building.4

Powering your business with wind, is it an option?
Wind turbines aren’t just for large scale power generation. If you have space, it’s possible to have turbines installed to help provide power to your business. A turbine that can generate 6kW of energy needs to be at least 150m from the nearest property, be it a shed or a building. But, even if you do have the land, it’s not quite that simple and straight forward. You’ll also need to consider;

  • The speed and consistency of the wind at your desired location.
  • The cost of installing a turbine, or multiple turbines to generate the amount of energy required.
  • Access to the site for installation and maintenance.
  • How the turbine will connect to the grid.
  • If you’ll need to apply for planning permission.5

Apart from generating energy, why else should you consider change?

Whilst installing energy generating solutions can initially be expensive, they could eventually start to pay for themselves. A study of 1000 UK customers by Cleantechnica found that two thirds of people would recommend a brand that was seen to be investing in renewable energy.6 Add that to an increasing number of people looking to do business with environmentally conscious companies, incorporating your renewable energy purchases into your marketing plans could help your company appeal to a wider audience.7


Sources:
https://www.theecoexperts.co.uk/business-energy/commercial-solar-panels
[1.] https://www.businessenergy.com/electricity/
[2.] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmenergy/173/173.pdf
[3.] http://www.energysavingwarehouse.co.uk/cavity-wall-insulation-commercial.html
[4.] https://www.gshp.org.uk/Ground_Source_Heat_Pump.html  
[5.] https://www.renewableenergyhub.co.uk/wind-turbines/how-much-does-wind-turbines-cost.html
[6.] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/energy-efficiency/why-your-business-should-go-renewable/
[7.] https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/9-ways-businesses-can-benefit-renewable-energy.php

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