Thanks to developments in technology, the latest generation of silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) cells can convert more than 15% of the received energy from the sun into useable electricity - can you imagine how much harnessing this power could reduce your business's running costs? In addition, you could actually get paid for generating and using your own electricity, so it's a win-win situation.
The government has introduced the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) to encourage home- and business-owners to invest in their own solar power systems, and payments have been guaranteed for 25 years. The rates paid depend on the size of the array, varying from 30.7p to 43.3p per kilowatt hour, plus there's an export tariff of 3.1p per kilowatt hour for any electricity fed back into the grid.
Of course, the amount of power that a system can generate will depend on a variety of factors - but surprisingly the weather is not one of them, since PV still generates electricity on a cloudy day (although maybe not quite as much as on a brilliantly sunny day). Bear in mind that shading from trees or other buildings will also limit the panels' effectiveness. Geographic location will also have an influence on the levels of irradiance (with southern England faring better than further north), while aspect should be considered too - due south is the optimum orientation, although solar collectors will still work efficiently between south-west and south-east. The array should also be tilted by about 30 degrees to the vertical to optimise exposure to the sun's power, but this doesn't preclude flat roof installation (frames are available to ensure this angle).
To find out exactly what sort of income and energy savings you could make you'll need to speak to an expert, who can model a specific system design for your building, and provide figures on expected yields. As with other types of project, it's best to obtain several comparable quotes before making your choice of installer - remember, too, that in order to qualify for the FiT, both the installer and the product need to have the appropriate Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accreditation.
To find out more about the technology, manufacturers, and to find an installer in your area, visit www.microgenerationcertification.org.