As a business owner, HR representative, or financial professional, you are not only concerned with reducing costs and increasing profits, but also with showcasing your commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Adopting solar energy for your business provides a unique opportunity to achieve both objectives. Solar panels are a reliable and cost-effective source of electricity that can be installed on various surfaces, such as rooftops, walls, ground surfaces, or carports. The use of solar energy not only saves you money, but also demonstrates your company’s dedication to sustainability. This can attract both customers and employees who value environmentally responsible practices. In this article, we will outline a step-by-step guide for businesses interested in adopting solar energy, including information on available subsidies, costs, and important considerations.
Step 1: Assess Energy Needs and Set Goals
The first step in the process of adopting solar energy is to assess your energy needs and set clear goals for your solar energy system. This will help you determine the size of the solar panel system that is right for your business. To do this, you will need to gather information about your energy consumption, such as the amount of electricity you use each month, the hours of operation for your business and the energy consumption during peak hours. It is also important to consider any future plans for expansion or changes in energy consumption.
Step 2: Verify Technical Feasibility
The next step is to verify the technical feasibility of the solar panel installation. This includes assessing the static resistance of the roof via an external engineering office (objective = ideally a resistance of 15kg/m2). Check for any building or environmental permits required (different regulations from one region to another). Consult with the public network manager to confirm the capacity for reinjection of excess energy. Additionally, it is important to consider the orientation and shading of the roof, as well as the potential for future shading from nearby buildings or trees. A professional solar panel installer should be able to provide an estimate of the expected energy production and return on investment based on these factors.
Step 3: Research Subsidies and Incentives
Once you have a good understanding of your energy needs and goals, the next step is to research the subsidies and incentives available to your business. Depending on the regions and countries, there are still different types of subsidies: some offer investment subsidies (€/kWp), others subsidies linked to the amount of energy produced (€/MWh), others still offer guaranteed long-term feed-in tariffs (€/MWh). But the most important gain is still the self-consumption of the produced energy, which not only brings immediate financial gains but also obvious environmental benefits. In Belgium, there are several programs that provide financial assistance for the installation of solar panels, including the “Prime à l’énergie” program. These programs can help offset the cost of installation and make solar energy more affordable for businesses.
Step 4: Choose a Solar Panel System and Installer
After you have determined your energy needs and goals and researched the subsidies and incentives available, the next step is to choose a solar panel system and installer. There are many solar panel installers in Belgium. Target a provider who is an expert in your region and in the type of installation you are considering. Keep in mind that most of them are oriented towards small domestic installations (up to 10-max 30 kWp); others are exclusively oriented towards C&I (Commercial and Industry), which is rather between 200 and 5000 kWp, which requires a very different approach (engineering capacity, logistics, financial, …). Some things to consider when choosing a solar panel system include the type of panels being used, and the warranty and maintenance plan. Check for the provider’s references and track record, and the services they provide beside installation. Do not hesitate to ask contact with their customers. Some providers do cover the full value chain, including financing.
Step 5: Install the Solar Panel System
Once you have chosen a solar panel system and installer, the next step is to install the system. The installation process typically takes a few weeks (average is 3), depending on the size of the system and the complexity of the installation. During this process, the installer will mount the panels on the roof, ground surface, walls or carport, and connect them to the electrical grid.
Step 6: Monitor and Maintain the Solar Panel System
After the solar panel system has been installed, it is important to monitor and maintain it to ensure that it is operating at its maximum efficiency. This includes regular cleaning and inspection of the panels and equipment, as well as monitoring the energy production and consumption. Your solar panel installer should be able to provide ongoing maintenance and monitoring services, or provide training for your staff to do it in-house. With proper maintenance and monitoring, a commercial solar panel system can have a lifespan of 25-30 years and can provide significant cost savings and environmental benefits for your business.
Adopting solar energy for your business can bring significant financial and environmental benefits. Although this article may not be exhaustive, we hope that it brings a few new pieces of information to the reader and serves as a helpful roadmap for confidently navigating the process of choosing and installing a solar panel system that meets the energy needs of your business.