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Should my business invest in solar panels?

Businesses throughout Australia are always on the lookout for ways to lower their costs, which is why solar panels could be the next logical step for many. While encouraging more energy efficient habits among employees can go some way towards reducing electricity prices, there's nevertheless a more long-term benefit to making use of solar panels.

There are several factors you'll need to weigh up before coming to that all-important final decision - and here are some of them.

Is my property facing the right way?

It used to be the case that north-facing premises were the most suitable choice for solar panels, but advances in technology mean this is no longer the case. While your property will capture the most sunlight if it's facing northwards, good quality products will be just as effective if they're not.

Figures from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory show north-facing solar panels in Melbourne generate an average of 1,383 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. South-facing properties, on the other hand, are capable of generating 1,036 kilowatt hours.

How much will it cost to install the system?

Putting a solar panel system in place isn't going to be cheap, which is why you'll need to do plenty of research to determine whether it's a worthwhile investment. There are plenty of calculators available online that can help work out how much electricity you could potentially generate, and how long this will take to offset the initial upfront cost.

Figures from the Clean Energy Council suggest that a 10 kilowatt system will cost between $15,000 and $20,000 to install. A 100 kilowatt system could set your business back as much as $200,000.

You will also find that different standards of solar panel are available. Make sure you choose one that you're completely happy with - it's a costly mistake to have to put right again at a later date.

Do I choose a grid-connected or standalone system?

The type of solar panel system you choose will depend on a number of factors, including the location of your property. If you're operating from a remote area, then a standalone system could make the most financial sense.

Grid-connected options will mean that your electricity supplies are first sourced from the solar panels. Once this has been exhausted, the system will revert to receiving energy from the grid. This can offer some reassurance in the case of a blackout.

Will solar panels always meet my energy needs?

Solar panels work by capturing sunlight before turning it into electricity - so what happens on overcast days or during the night? Grid-connected solar PV systems will kick into action even when darkness falls, which can be especially useful if your business functions both day and night.

A standalone system might not have enough backup power to give the electricity you need at night. This is something you will need to think about - and perhaps discuss with your installer - before coming to any final decision.

Will I be able to sell electricity back to the grid?

Some electricity tariffs may give you the flexibility to sell any unused electricity back to the grid - but this isn't always the case. If this is something you're interested in, speak to your business electricity supplier and see whether you will be able to reap financial rewards from your solar panels.

You may find that regulations vary from state to state, so it's well worth doing some homework before deciding whether solar panels are the right choice for your firm at the present time.

Posted by Jeremy Elliott