Commercial Solar Panel Installation

A successful project starts well before the solar installation begins.

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Why

?

A solar PV system on or near your business is a great way to reduce your electricity costs, slash your carbon footprint and earn an income.

Solar panels generate clean electricity during daylight hours, and this electricity is used to offset electricity that you would ordinarily purchase from the grid.

The power is 100% green meaning that you can take comfort in the fact that you are doing your bit to mitigate climate change.

What’s more, any power not consumed on site can either be sold to the ‘grid’ or stored in a battery for later use

How

?

BeBa Energy UK are experts at developing, installing and maintaining solar PV systems – since 2010 we have installed over 500 systems across the UK.

With this in mind we know that every site in the UK is unique and so the first step on the journey towards realising a solar PV project is to call or email our office. Solar is not right for every business so we need to understand how your business operates in order to advise you on the correct solution – not just on the physical solar panel installation but also on how you might wish to fund it.

Once it is confirmed your site is broadly appropriate for solar PV we will carry out an intensive site survey to ensure that the solar asset can perform at the highest levels for at least 25 years.

As soon as the commercial solar panels is installed we will handle the operation and maintenance of the system – including cleaning – so that you you can get on with running your business.

Commercial Solar Installation

As the UK transitions to a zero-carbon economy, solar power is an excellent way of both reducing your organisations electricity bill and carbon footprint.

Our clear and concise approach has seen us deliver systems for Hildon Water , Norwich Airport and Berry Gardens to name a few.

One of the most important aspects to consider is the impact a project has on the day-to-day running of the business. Accordingly, our industry-leading delivery team will forensically plan an installation to ensure any disruption is kept to an absolute minimum; a dedicated project manager will also be on hand to assist with any queries during commercial solar panel installation.

Agriculutural Solar Installation

The rural community has traditionally been at the forefront of renewable energy deployment and solar power is no exception.

We are proud to work with farmers of all sizes across the country to support them with their diversification projects.

BeBa Energy understand and respect the unique characteristics of a rural project, and our work to date is testament to this.

Since 2010 we have delivered projects for some of the UK’s most well respected farmers including FW Mansfield and Son, AC Goatham and Son and Grain Harvesters

New Build Solar Installation

There is no better time to consider solar power than when you are building/refurbishing.

Not only are there many opportunities to reduce cost, in some instances solar can also help secure planning permission.

BeBa Energy are proud to support clients all the way from the initial design phase all the way through to the installation and the on-going management of the solar asset.

We have recently completed new build projects for Norwich Airport and Berry Gardens ; in March 2020 we were also involved in the refurbishment of the Port of London Authority headquarters in London where we stripped their old roof and built them a new roof made from solar panels.

 

Solar Panel Installation - The Process

Once you have made the decision to explore the options for generating your own clean power, where do you start and what is the process?

The great news is that almost all projects follow the same path; this path has been designed to minimise development risk whilst ensuring a deep understanding of the pros and cons of the potential project along each step of the way.

Step 1

Data

The first step of any journey is often the most important and the development of a solar PV array is no different.

With 12 months half-hourly demand data, a copy of your most recent electricity bill, and confirmation of the building(s)/land in mind, we will analyse your information to determine the optimum size of system based on your motivation for “going green”.

Step 2

Preliminary Proposal

Once we have determined the correct system size we will put a preliminary proposal together.

Our preliminary proposal is 80% financial and 20% technical, and will cover –

  • Size and approximate layout of the system
  • Output
  • Utilisation of the solar power
  • Capital Cost and funding options
  • Savings
  • Operational costs
  • Payback/Return on investment
  • Carbon reduction figures

At this early stage all we are likely to know about your site is what we have been able to glean from your data and Google Maps. However a preliminary proposal is sufficiently detailed enough to allow us to review some of the reasons why a solar array might not be right for your business before either party commits too much time or resource on something that is unlikely to progress past the concept stage in the short/medium-term.

Step 3

Full Technical Survey

If the preliminary proposal stacks up, the next step is to fully assess the proposed location. Our technical survey usually takes a morning and will involve 6 of our team – all with varying skillsets – visiting site to measure and understand the thousands of different variables on site.

Our technical survey includes –

  • G99 application
  • Independent structural assessment
  • Roof condition survey
  • Scaffold and access assessment
  • Electrical integration assessment
  • Health and safety appraisal

It is our hope that we gather all of the information we require during this visit but it may require additional visits – usually from a single member of our team – if the project is particularly complex or the scope alters as a result of what we discover.

Step 4

Formal Proposal

Assuming the outcome of the survey is positive, we will return to you with a formal proposal.

This proposal will be similar to the preliminary version but will include much more detail around how we would deliver the project.

We will con rm the system design and output as well as the scaffold and access arrangements. Most critically we will con rm how long it will take to deliver the project, the level of disruption you can expect (if any) and any power outages we may require.

Step 5

Planning Permission/ Permitted Development

Once you have agreed to move forward with your project and have signed our supply contract, we will draft, submit and progress either a Permitted Development application or full planning application.

A solar array qualifies for Permitted Development if –

  • The total installed capacity is under 1MW
  • The panels sit now more than 200mm from the plane of the roof
  • There is a 1m border between the outer panels and the roof
  • If ground mounted the footprint of the array is less than 9m2

If your solar arrays does not satisfy all of these criteria then a full planning application will be required.

Step 6

Project Delivery

As soon as we have the appropriate permissions in place we move into the delivery phase.

We work closely with your teams to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum whilst immersing ourselves in the specific rules of the site.

During the build we may even y our drone to capture some progress footage for use in the post-completion drone video.

Step 7

Handover

Once the system has been successfully delivered and has been operational for several weeks, we will arrange a detailed handover with you to once again take you through the various procedures you might need to be aware of.

This will include shutting down the system in an emergency, as well as starting the system back up in the event that it should shut down.

We will also run you through your online monitoring portal so that you

can check the realtime performance of the array – although most clients prefer to set automated reports that are sent to their inbox once a month; these are almost infinitely customisable and can contain detail such as –

  • Output of system
  • Consumption of solar power
  • Level of export to grid

Step 8

Asset Management

Most clients prefer their solar installations to integrate seamlessly into their operations without the need for additional management.

With this in mind, our tailored operations and maintenance packages allow BeBa to worry about the performance of your system while you focus on your core activities.

Our packages range from a simple ‘MOT’ once a year, all the way up to full monitoring on your behalf with swift-action if the system appears
to be under-performing. Moreover, because we have installed over 500 systems across the country, we can bench the performance of your array against systems in your area – not just against the projections in our algorithm.

Step 9

Annual Reviews

We like to work with our partners for the long term – not just to ensure we get the most from your asset – but to ensure that we regularly review where we are against where we said we would be.

Accordingly, we will plan an annual review – broad or detailed to suit your diary – so that you can see how your investment is performing, as well as to suggest other opportunities that might support your financial and green ambitions.

Last year our annual review with Hildon Water showed their system overperformed by 4%.

to begin your journey

Solar PV Install - Timescale

Whilst you may have seen your energy prices increase almost overnight, developing a solar array correctly will not happen quite so fast.

Week 1
Step 1 - Preliminary Proposal
The first step on the journey is to establish whether or not a solar PV system meets the short, medium and long-term goals of the business.

In order to understand this - without either party committing too much time - we will produce a preliminary proposal based on some conservative assumptions for the site as well as some electricity data supplied by the business.

A preliminary proposal will cover the approximate system size, layout (and why), likely cost, payback and, most importantly, carbon reduction.
Week 1
Week 3-17
Step 2 - Grid Application
After some internal deliberation, the next step will be to apply to your local District Network Operator (DNO) and request permission to connect your proposed array to their network.

Owing to the fact the grid have the right to veto the project - either via flat no or via uneconomical charges to connect - it’s advisable to tackle this element of the project early on.

The grid have up to 65 working days in which to issue their response to an application.

One of our previous blogs, 'No Export, No Problem’ explores this topic in more detail.

Week 3-17
Week 20-25
Step 3 - Structural/Land and Site Surveys
After some further internal deliberation, next up is the structural/ground survey as well as a site survey.

Solar panels need to stay anchored to the building or land for over 25 years so it’s important that they can withstand the weight of the equipment plus everything that mother nature can throw at it.

It’s also important for us to measure all of the site variables so that our formal proposal provides all of the detail needed so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not to proceed with the project.

A site visit to carry out the structural survey plus the site survey will take 6 weeks to arrange, carry out and then interpret the data collected.
Week 20-25
Week 26
Step 4 - Formal Proposal
At this point - roughly 6 months from starting the process - we will be in a position to provide a formal proposal with fixed costs.

Our formal proposal will also cover likely site disruption (if any), inverter locations and delivery timescales.
Week 26
Week 32-39
Step 5 - Permitted Development/Planning Permission
After some further, final, deliberation – as well as finalising the funding of the project – we will agree and sign commercial terms.

With this we will set the wheels in motion on the permitted development/planning permissions

Timescales here vary but 8 weeks to draft, submit and secure the correct permissions is typical.
Week 32-39
Week 40-52
Step 6 - Project Delivery
As soon as the correct permissions are in place from the local council, we will progress to the final phase of this journey - project delivery.

Clearly timescales are subject to system size, complexity and the weather but most projects are delivered within 4 - 8 weeks, with bigger projects taking up to 12 weeks.
Week 40-52

Commercial Solar Panel Installation

Things to think about

Solar Power is one of the world’s most popular renewable energy technologies

Why

?

It’s relatively easy to access, straightforward to maintain and because of the abundance of energy. Did you know that in a single hour the amount of power from the sun that strikes the Earth is more than enough to power the entire world for over a year?

That being said, as popular as it is for the reasons mentioned above, there are lots of things to think about when you are considering a commercial solar power project –

Site disruption

For the most part, commercial solar PV systems can be installed with little-to-no disruption; you certainly won’t need to shut your site during the work. You will, however, know that we are there. It is likely that you will need to allocate an area of your parking/storage facilitates for our compound, where we will set up our working area for the duration of the project.

Subject to the size of the project, our compound will contain –

• Storage for solar equipment and mechanical access machinery
• Welfare facilities for our operative
• An office for our Project/Site management

Scaffold Disruption

If we are installing solar panels to your roof, our operatives will need safe, rapid, access as well as somewhere to load our materials on to. Subject to the size and scale of your project, we may need multiple loading towers which – subject to the height of your building – may be as large as 49m2. The scaffolding is the first and last parts of the project so careful consideration is needed as to where the scaffolding is placed. If the optimum location for the access towers happens to be near an access door, we have methods for ensuring these remain fully operational during our work.

Electrical Connection

Subject to the size of the solar installation and the on-site electrical configuration, it is highly likely that several short electrical shutdowns may be required.

These can be carried out during quiet periods – such as at night or at weekends.

Once planning approval is nearly with us, we will produce a detailed project plan which will try and pin point when the shut downs may be required, and work with you to ensure the impact is minimal.

We work to ensure the two sides of the connection are ready, and then the shut down is simply to bring them both together. If required, we can have multiple – short – shutdowns if this better suits the operations of the site.

Noise on Roof

Your solar panels will need to stay in place for over 25 years, and they will need to withstand the very best that Mother Nature has to offer.

Accordingly, our solar installation teams will use power tools to ensure a solid fix to the roof.

The noise of the drills and fixings – particularly on a metal roof – are not to be under-estimated.

Additionally, the noise created by our operatives as they criss-cross over the roof, may well cause issues internally and should be discussed early on.

Planning Rights

In the majority of circumstances, commercial rooftop solar PV systems will qualify for Permitted Development (PD) whereas ground-mounted solar PV systems will almost always require full Planning Permission.

Broadly, the rules are as follows when determining whether or not your solar array qualifies for PD –

Rooftop –

• System capacity of less than 1MW (1,000kW)

• A one metre gap is maintained between the edge of the panels and the roof

• The panels sit no more than 200mm off the plane of the roof

 

Ground-mount –

• System footprint of less than 9m2

Naturally there may be certain local exceptions to these rules – such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or listed buildings/properties within the curtilage of a listed building. 

Grid Permission

Despite the governments pledge to achieve Net Zero by 2050 there are instances where businesses can be prevented from installing solar panels.

In short, if the local grid does not have the capacity to receive the power your solar system generates or it has issues on its network that prevent the installation of special hardware to prevent export to the grid, they have the right to veto the project.

Please see our blog – No Export, No Problem – for further information.

Leasehold

Not owning the building you would like to connect solar panels to is not necessarily a barrier to generating your own solar power.

The commercial system we developed and installed for Berry Gardens in 2019 was installed on a building they did not own.

As a rule of thumb you will have at least the projected payback plus 3 year remaining on your lease as well as having the express permission of your landlord before beginning the process.

If you own your building but are worried about the implications of installing solar on a building you may wish to redevelop at a later date, you are under no obligation to continue generating clean energy once you start. If you install solar on year 1, and sell at year 15, the solar can simply be disconnected along with the other utility services; there may even be some residual value in the equipment being removed.

If you own your own building but are worried it may impact on your ability to sell the facility to a new occupant, bear in mind that selling premises with its own clean energy station is likely to help it gain an advantage over similar buildings that do not generate their own power. As the cost of electricity rises this point is likely to become stronger.

Condition of Roof

Solar panels are designed to be installed once and, ideally, left in place. Accordingly, it is important to consider the condition of the roof you are thinking of installing the panels on.

The condition of your roof is important to protect both your return on investment and you risk.

You clearly want to avoid the cost of removing the panels if you can help it but you also want to avoid having a less-than-watertight roof. Although leaks are rare, if the roof’s best days are behind it, you may wish to consider repairs/replacement as part of the project.

Conversely, if your roof is brand new, you want to be clear that the roof was in great condition before the installation began.

Solar Inverter Location

The inverters are the brains of the operation – they invert the DC power produced by the panels into AC power than can be used on site. They also control power being exported back to the grid if not used on site.

Invariably they are placed at ground-level to allow for on-going maintenance and it is highly likely, during the life of your system, that one of more of the inverters will need replacing and/or repairing.

Because they are at ground-level it is important to choose a location that is –

  • Within 20m of the point of connection into your electrical infrastructure
  • Protected from the impact of forklifts or lorries
  • Shielded from direct sunlight
  • Well ventilated

Most inverters are IP65 rated so they can live outside if space inside is at a premium.

Structural Adequacy / Ground Make Up

For most buildings that were built before 2010, it is highly unlikely that the weight of solar panels were ever a consideration in the design process.

That said, depending on the use of the building, it is highly likely that a certain level of tolerance was factored in for additional load on the roof.

As part of our development process we will contract an independent structural engineer to assess your building for the proposed additional loads.

It is almost certain that your insurer will want to see a copy of your independent structural report if they are asked to provide cover for the new system.

For ground-mounted systems, it will be necessary to understand the make-up of the ground. The make up of the ground will determine how deep the aluminium structures need to be piled in order to stay in place. The outcome of the ground survey may even mean that a concrete or ‘tub’ system is more appropriate.

This list is just some of the things to think about when considering a commercial solar PV installation.
To discuss others that might relate specifically to your site, please contact us today.
 

Agricultural Solar Panel Installation

Things to think about

An agricultural installation shares many of the same ‘Things to think about’ as a commercial or new build project

However there are several things that are specific to a solar installation on a farm or in a farming environment, and these must be taken it consideration when developing a solar PV project.

Crop/Cattle Cycles

Most of the buildings used to host a solar array are also used for the storage of crops or cattle. With this in mind – if at all possible – it makes sense to plan the work for a time when cattle movement or crop storage is at it’s lowest.

Of course, this isn’t always possible which is why clear, open, dialogue is important to ensure a smooth and efficient installation.

Fragile/Older Roofs

The overwhelming majority of farm buildings have roofs made from either asbestos or fibre-cement; many are over thirty or forty years old.

Early on it’s important to assess whether or not the roof is likely to last for at least 10 years after the system is installed, or whether it is likely to need extensive repairs or replacement. If this is the case then there is a strong argument for tying the work in with the solar installation so as to benefits from certain economies of scale and project efficiencies (such as shared scaffolding for example).

Whilst it may be possible to install solar onto an asbestos roof, we would also advocate either replacement of the roof or the re-cladding of the roof prior to the installation of solar panels.

Grid Issues

Many remote farms struggle to obtain permission to connect their
solar arrays in parallel with the local electricity network. If the site has
a significant power requirement then there are ways around this but if there is little/inconsistent electricity demand then a smaller system may well be proposed or the site will incur costs to ‘strengthen’ the network in order to permit connection.

Another issue occasionally encountered in rural locations, is grid voltage fluctuation. In the UK, mains electricity is currently required by law
to be delivered at 230 volts and within a tolerance of -6%, +10%. As a result, the solar inverters – the ‘bridge’ between the solar panels and the network – are required to work towards these parameters as well.

The issue occurs when the power supplied to the site – and therefore the inverter – either exceeds or is below 230 volts (plus the tolerance). When this happens the inverter is designed to disconnect and attempt to reconnect 30 seconds later, when hopefully the voltage issue has corrected itself; the inverter will disconnect again if the issues persists.

There are one of two steps that can be taken in order to overcome the issue of grid voltage instability. The first is to complain to your electricity supplier. As mentioned earlier, there is a legal requirement for your supplier to provide you with electricity at a set voltage.

The second option is to apply for permission to widen the parameters of the inverter so that it can continue to operate when the voltage is too low or too high. This option is suitable if only the solar inverters are impacted by the voltage issue but if you have other equipment that is vulnerable to fluctuating voltage then option one may prove to be more beneficial.

Structural Capacity

As farm buildings are generally built to store equipment, crops and cattle, they are typically built to a lower specification than a building built for prolonged human occupation.

With this in mind, the tolerance for the addition of weight to the roof is much lower.

As part of our development process we will ensure that the proposed installation is signed off by a suitably qualified independent structural engineer.
 

On Site Power Configuration

It’s not uncommon for farms in the UK to have multiple electricity supplies.

There may be one for the workshop, one for the grain store and another for the farm house.

On occasion, and subject to the specific electricity demand of each supply, it may make sense to amalgamate all of the onsite supplies into one large, single, supply.

The reason for this is that one solar array may only provide power to one electricity supply; accordingly, unless you choose to install multiple systems, power not consumed by the supply fed by the solar array will be exported to the grid if not consumed at the exact moment of generation. Amalgamating supplies means that if the grain store in our example was not able to consume all of the solar energy being produced, it would be capable of supplying the workshop and then the farm house before being exported to the grid – often at a price less than 1/3 of the cost of power purchased from the grid.

Electrical Connection

As farms grow in size and complexity, so too does their electrical infrastructure. It’s not unfair to say that – on occasion – we come across sites where the electrical configuration falls short of current rules and regulations.

When we are presented with a situation such as this, we are duty bound to ensure our integration into the site electrical infrastructure is safe and meets all current standards. This means that we may need to upgrade or change some of the onsite electrical infrastructure even if it doesn’t form part of the solar work itself. Alternatively we will advise what works are needed, and then we will return to complete our work once this work has been undertaken.

This list is just some of the things to think about when considering a agricultural solar PV installation.
To discuss others that might relate specifically to your site, please contact us today.
 

New Build Solar Panel Installation

Things to think about

When constructing a new building, it makes complete sense to ensure it is as energy efficient as possible.

Double glazing, insulation and LED lights are par for the course these days, but what about one step beyond this; what about not just consuming power efficiently, what about generating it cleanly?

Sadly, far too many new buildings are being built without utilising the roof space for solar power generation – for some, it’s an aggravation that will be avoided if it can be.

But what about those buildings that are incorporating solar power into the design? We’ve put together a short list of things to think about when incorporating solar into a new construction –

Planning Rights

It’s important to ensure that the building being constructed is built entirely in keeping with the original planning approval.

For this reason it makes sense to partner with a solar developer early so that they can assist with the planning application.

Owing to the fact that solar technology is improving at such a rapid rate, it’s best not to be too specific on what will be installed other than to show an indicative plan of how the system might look and the amount of energy it will produce.

If the solar system forms part of the reason for securing planning permission, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s technically possible to achieve the desired yield from the space allocate for panels.

Grid Permission

If the new building is going to have a new electricity supply connected to it, it is recommended that the proposed solar installation is incorporated into the specification of the supply.

The vast majority of new connections only require power to go in one direction – from the network to the property.

However when a solar system is installed a ‘dynamic connection’ will be required to ensure that power is permitted to travel in both directions. Not only does this ensure compliance with regulations, it also means that the owner of the building will have the opportunity of being paid for any energy that they do not consume on site.

Please bear in mind that even if the predicted output of the system is unlikely to scratch the surface of the predicted load of the new building your DNO will still ask you to apply for a dynamic connection; they will always apply the logic that at some point in the future the output of the solar array may outstrip the demand of the building.

 
Sometimes a DNO is unable to provide a dynamic connection because of grid constraints in the area. Our blog – No Export, No Problem – explores this in further depth.

Structural Adequacy

A fairly obvious inclusion in this list but an important one nonetheless

Depending on the chosen method of mounting the solar array, the system can add several tonnes of weight to the roof of a building.

Liaising early on with the buildings design engineers may mean we can configure the system so as to limit the structural impact the solar array has.

Bear in mind that the weight of the panels, mounting system and ballast is one thing; the forces applied by mother nature also need to be factored in..

Metering

When arranging an electricity meter for the new property, ensure the meter and the contract is capable of handling exported energy as well as imported energy.

This will allow the owner of the building to apply for payment for the power they have not consumed from the solar array.

Roof Work/Penetration/Protection of Warranties

The big one.

Many new build solar installations require roof penetrations in order to keep the solar array in place; penetrating a new roof, however, may lead to concerns about the roof warranty.

Depending on the type of roof the panels are being installed on – providing that the mounting system is t for purpose and is installed correctly – penetrating the roof will not lead to the immediate voiding of roof warranties.

For an added layer of protection it may be prudent to have the solar installer mark out where the fixings are to go and then have the roofing installer carry out the penetrations. The solar installer can then undertake the mechanical fixing of rails to the penetrations and then the panels to the rails.

The most important point is to have these discussions early on in proceedings and, if necessary, involve the roof material supplier in discussions to avoid any issues further down the line. It is also advisable, before work commences on the roof, to have a detailed roof inspection so as to highlight any damage to the roof that was present before the panels were installed.

The ultimate backstop will be to ensure that the company fitting the solar panels have the correct levels of insurance in place in the event of something going wrong.

Electrical Connection

Depending on whether solar panels are being installed in relation to the point of connection (POC), the most efficient installations allow for the solar cables to be installed during the ‘ first x’ phase of construction; this avoids having to drill holes in a brand new wall!

Alternatively, if the solar panels are being installed on the roof of a block of fiats for example, it might make most sense to have the electrical contractor run a dedicated POC from the plant room to the roof rather than have the solar installer run their cable back down to the plant room.

If the installation is particularly large early discussions about the final connection can help reduce costs dramatically – it may be that elements required for the final connection can be designed and built into the main board.

Again, early liaison is key.

Inverter Placement

Even though they perform arguably the most important function of a solar PV system – they invert the DC power produced by the panels into AC power than can be used on site – more often than not they are the forgotten part of a solar system.

The positioning of a solar array is much more than ensuring there is adequate space for it – consideration must be given to the ongoing maintenance of the unit(s) as well as making sure it is well ventilated where possible; remember that if any element of the array is going to fail during its 25-year life, its most likely going to be the inverter.

As with each item in this list – early conversations cannot be overstated. We can work with you when you are designing your plant room to ensure the chosen space for the inverters is adequate; if plant room space is at an absolute premium, we can also advise on other areas that may be suitable.

Roof Access

Incorporating a solar installation during the construction phase of a building not only allows for an efficient installation, it also has the potential to save on costs.

One such area is roof access – if there is access in place to install the roof, it makes sense to try and utilise this access when fitting the solar panels.

Early conversations will allow us to specify exactly what we require in order to avoid having to rework the scaffolding/access further down the line.

A key requirement when installing solar panels is a loading tower for our materials. It may make sense to load the equipment onto a completely separate structure before they are carried to their position on the roof.

This list is just some of the things to think about when considering a new build solar PV installation.
To discuss others that might relate specifically to your site, please contact us today.
 

Electricity prices are rising steeper and faster than ever.

Take steps today to protect your business.

It can take up to

12

months
to correctly develop, design and deliver a commercial-scale solar PV system.