Diversify and conquer: 7 steps to making money with renewable energy
18th February 2020
For business owners concerned about the environment, making the switch to renewable energy can reduce your personal environmental impact while contributing to the wider decarbonisation of the UK’s electricity network.
It’s also a way for a business to diversify by bringing in a new stream of revenue. If done right, it can be low effort, high impact and good for the environment to boot.
Investing in renewable energy generation
The aim of the generation game is to work out if your potential return on investment makes the upfront costs worth it.
For some businesses, investing in this way makes complete sense. If you own land, you could have the physical space for a generator, such as a wind turbine. It can even be twice as rewarding for some business models – for example, a farm can process waste efficiently, while generating clean energy, with an anaerobic digestion plant.
This business owner found that a wind turbine made such solid business sense that is was a no-brainer to install it and go on to invest in solar panels and AD.
What’s the easiest way to get started?
Different types of renewable energy generation have different admin requirements to get them set up. The most accessible for most businesses is solar panels – an efficient way to turn empty roof space into a passive income stream.
7 steps to installing solar panels
1.Find a developer
So, you’ve got a good place to put some solar panels. Great! The first thing you need to do is find a partner who can install your panels. Finding a developer will be easiest if you can get a recommendation from a trusted partner, like your current energy supplier.
Different developers will have expertise in different areas, so being pointed in the right direction can ensure you find the right solution for your business.
You can find local approved installers on the Microgeneration Certification Scheme website.
A good rule of thumb is to get at least three quotes to help you compare rates, which should also be applied when selecting a developer.
2. Sort out a contract
Found a developer who speaks your language? You’ll now need to decide what kind of contract is best for your business.
What installation design will you opt for, and are you happy with the payback you’ll get from that design? You’ll want certain warrantees for your equipment, and you’ll want to make sure all costs are upfront with nothing hidden.
You may also need to have an operations and maintenance package dependant on your system size, as some guarantees and warranties require a regular service.
Your installer should conduct a site visit to make sure everything’s in order during this process. They’ll check things like whether your roof is suitable for installing panels (the right size, angle and sunlight exposure) or if your electrical connection can accommodate the extra current coming from your generator, for example.
Once your contract is signed, an engineer from the developer you choose will inspect your site to make sure everything will be compatible with your new system.
3. Decide if you want to sell your energy
Your contract will include whether you will export energy. If you’re generating power, there’s a good chance you’ll be using this power yourself to help cut down your business electricity bill.
However, in a productive period – a particularly sunny day – you may generate more than you need. Some developers will be able to help you export this energy to sell it to your supplier at the market rate. This is known as a PPA – a ‘power purchase agreement’ – and means more money for you and more renewable energy for the UK.
Your electricity supplier can also help assist you in setting up export MPANs (your meter supply point) and the required metering that will need to be installed to allow your system to export the surplus energy. In this case, an export meter operator contract will be required between you and the company you choose to have a PPA with to enable this to happen.
4. Cross the ‘T’s and dot the ‘I’s
Next up, paperwork and ordering your equipment. Most of this work will get handled by your installer, so you don’t need to worry, but it’s an important step. You’ll decide together exactly what kind of solar panels will be best for you, and the mounting system you’ll use to attach them to the roof.
5. Installation day
Small installations can be done in one or two days, with larger installations taking a week or more. For roof installations, scaffolding will go up to support the works, before a frame is attached to then add on your solar panels. The electrical systems will then be wired up, and you’re good to go.
6. Go live
Time to start generating. Your solar panel system will begin converting light photons into usable electricity, which will then be stored in a battery bank to power your premises when you need it or be pushed back into the National Grid via your partner energy supplier. This is when you can start generating income.
7. Watch your carbon footprint shrink…
…and watch your revenue grow. Most generation systems will come with a digital platform where you can track exactly how much energy you generate and how much money you make, if you choose to sell it on. This means you can watch, in real-time, the money you’re making for your business.