The government wants to see a massive boost in the amount of solar power generated on the roof tops of commercial properties, and a leading installer says petrol filling stations could be ideally placed to cash in.
In a speech to the British Photo Voltaic Association, Gregory Barker, a minister at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), said he wanted a step change in the amount of solar panels on commercial roof tops.
He contrasted the healthy take-up in the domestic sector compared with the commercial sector and said: "I want to fundamentally change those proportions. I want to put rocket-boosters under the commercial and industrial solar sectors here in Britain."
He said the government was acting to lift regulations which limit roof-top solar, and it was looking into paying higher tariffs to people putting solar panels on roofs rather than in fields.
Mark Scott, commercial sales manager of Zenex Solar, said the roofs of forecourt stores were often ideal sites for solar panels, and some canopies also provided opportunities.
His company is a major wholesaler of solar panels and has expanded into supplying direct to customers, providing a turnkey service.
He said what is needed is a roof that is in the open and not overshadowed by other buildings or trees and this is the case with most petrol stations. He added that there was a lot of interest across the UK because most petrol stations were heavy users of electricity and could make substantial cost savings on their power. After a payback period, which is generally five to eight years, the electricity generated is basically free.
Scott said there were three financial benefits: the savings on energy costs; a feed-in tariff which is paid for every unit generated; and payment for any power that is exported to the national grid. The government has index linked future increases in the latter two.
He also said installation of solar panels was a quick, simple process which could be performed with minimum disruption to businesses, potentially over a single night, and once installed they are designed to be maintenance free.
Zenex will install panels on a turnkey basis so the company handles every aspect from the planning and structural survey through to completion.