Rooftop solar PVs: a goldmine for UK businesses and warehouses

Businesses are searching left and right for ways to shrink their carbon footprint, while also boosting cost savings. Yet, one method that is often overlooked can be found right above us: in the untapped potential of rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

Business and warehousing facilities are sitting on a goldmine of untapped renewable energy potential. According to a report from the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA), the warehouse sector in particular possesses enough roof space to accommodate up to 15GW of new solar capacity. This significant capacity could effectively double the UK’s solar PV capacity and contribute to meeting the National Grid’s minimum requirements for solar expansion by 2030, generating up to 13.8 TWh of electricity annually. A similar report from Barbour ABI found that UK warehouse roofs have the potential to support up to 25GWp of new solar capacity, far more than the total installed in the UK since 2010.

Environmental Impact and Financial Gain

For both warehouses and business facilities, solar PV presents a unique opportunity to reach net zero. An additional 15GW would lead to a reduction of up to 2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Moreover, solar PV is a smart financial investment. Self-financed rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) projects offer an attractive internal rate of return, ranging from 10% to 15%. These systems have power warranties for 25 years, adding substantial value to warehouse assets.

The increasing interest in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria among institutional investors has made carbon emissions a key factor in investment decisions. By adopting rooftop solar PV systems, a business can align with ESG standards and attract responsible investors. This not only bolsters their green credentials but also enhances a company’s overall desirability in the marketplace.

Barbour ABI’s research shows companies like Amazon UK and Associated British Ports (ABP) are already leading the charge. Amazon boasts 26 arrays with a total capacity exceeding 20MWp, while ABP has plans to reach 40MWp by 2025. Warehouses are not the only ones getting in on the action; factories are also embracing the trend, with the largest installation to date being a 6.7MWp array at a Don & Low Nonwovens site in Forfar.

An Affordable Transition

Investing in renewable infrastructure can be a substantial endeavour, but there’s a new solution available on the market that can make it more accessible. Europe’s leading energy company, Vattenfall Networks, has recently introduced a new model that offers a straightforward and hassle-free approach to transitioning to renewable energy, including solar. Using a lease,

businesses can have an energy specialist acquire or build solar installations on their behalf, cutting their bills and their carbon emissions without any upfront investment. Vattenfall also invests capital and deploys other electrical infrastructure such as EV charging facilities to help clients realise energy efficiency gains and meet decarbonisation targets, all capital expenditure-free.

“Turning rooftops into powerhouses of renewable energy isn’t just smart for the environment; it’s a strategic advantage for businesses looking to thrive in a greener, more cost-sensitive future”, says Andy Vickers, Business Development Manager at Vattenfall Networks, “Utilising untapped roof space to gain energy independence, cost savings, and a sustainable edge in today’s market is a clear win, whichever way you look at it”, he adds.

Contributing to a Greener Future

The UK government has set an ambitious target of achieving 70GW of solar capacity by 2035, with the Solar Taskforce highlighting the potential of commercial rooftop solar. The Climate Change Committee has further stressed the need for 40GWp of solar by 2030 to meet the 2050 net-zero emissions target. By deploying solar on unused commercial roof space, businesses not only have the opportunity to reduce their bills but also become leading players in the UK’s journey towards a net-zero future.