Solar energy can provide both electricity and heat. It's unlikely that solar energy supply all the energy a business in Northern Ireland needs, but it can provide a significant percentage.
Photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity. They are available in a variety of formats including cladding, roof tiles and custom glazing. The panels are generally positioned on an unshaded, pitched roof. This allows them to receive as much sunlight as possible.
Solar hot water systems absorb energy from the sun and transfer it, using heat exchangers, to heat water. Solar water heating can heat water to temperatures of up to 65°C. There are a variety of solar water heating collectors available, which are commonly mounted on roofs in the same way as PV panels.
Advantages of solar energy
- Solar water heating can be a very economical system for businesses that need large quantities of hot water, such as canteens.
- Many people find solar panels a relatively attractive addition to a building. They also make it clear you run a sustainable business.
- Planning permission is not always required, although you should always check with your local planning office.
- Solar panels require little maintenance.
Disadvantages of solar energy
- Solar energy is an intermittent technology as it is dependent on sunlight - panels can generate some energy when conditions are cloudy but not at night.
- Solar energy can be expensive to implement, usually with long payback periods of more than 25 years, although this is likely to be greatly reduced with incentives.
- Fitting solar systems on existing buildings can be particularly costly. It is better to install solar energy at the build stage.