Here comes the sun

Solar is a renewable clean power source that when paired with energy storage systems can deliver electricity on demand. The transition to solar is starting to gain momentum but is it a viable solution?

As the UK takes significant strides toward combatting the climate change crisis, the race is on to find a renewable power source that will help to safeguard the future of the planet and its inhabitants. This seismic progression away from fossil fuels will take many years to come to fruition, so the research and development of new green energies must be front and centre of government strategies around the world.

In the meantime, fossil fuels will remain the primary energy source for the vast majority of countries, providing electricity, heat, transportation and manufacturing. That said, the current global reliance on natural resources is causing concern surrounding the long-term future of energy supply. Over time, the constant high use of non-renewable energy sources has contributed to the rapid depletion of fossil fuel reserves.

Is solar the answer?

Solar power is emerging as a potential solution to the energy crisis; by harnessing the sun’s clean abundant and limitless power source, countries around the world can begin the transition away from traditional fuels to a greener more sustainable tomorrow. Solar energy doesn’t produce byproducts that can be harmful to the environment and add to the planet’s environmental issues, like global warming or acid rain.

International decarbonisation plans require zero-carbon energy sources to be widely adopted by 2050. The economic attractiveness of solar energy is improving fast, due to increasing investment in the technology behind the solar panels that harvest the sunlight.

Solar panels are usually mounted on building rooftops, on the ground where space is available, or depending on the type of panel – forecourt canopies. The panels convert the sun’s rays to electricity, which can then be stored in battery energy storage systems and deployed as required. In principle, there is enough solar irradiation reaching the Earth every day to allow 24/7 availability of carbon-free solar energy across the globe.

Solar in energy retail

Early in 2022, a major oil company (MOC) converted an ageing fuel station in Fulham into a contemporary, high-speed electric vehicle (EV) charging hub, built with sustainability in mind. The redundant petrol and diesel pumps made way for nine high-powered, ultra-rapid 175 kW electric charge points.

In line with the MOC’s energy transition strategy, the charge points at Fulham are operated by one hundred percent renewable electricity, consistent with all of its EV chargers across the UK, including those found at over 100 of its forecourts. The new EV hub showcases an environmentally conscious design that features solar panels built into the roof to generate renewable electricity to power the site. Both the store windows and skylights are double glazed for better insulation, reducing energy use for both cooling in the summer and heating in winter.

This innovative model has set a precedent in the energy industry for other forward-thinking retailers to follow.

TSG is here to help

TSG has been prominent in the retail fuel industry for over 30 years and will continue to support all fossil fuel sites with equipment and maintenance until further notice. In more recent times, TSG has established itself as the UK’s first-choice engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for all new energies (including electricity and solar), delivering all works within a predefined timescale and budget for any application.

Furthermore, TSG employs a team of highly skilled technical engineers to provide a supreme aftercare service that operates seven days a week. The foundation for an effective transition to solar power is the implicit trust formed between the customer and the supplier during and following an installation. Clients can rest assured that TSG will provide the necessary support, advice and maintenance services for as long as required.

The energy shift

The climate change crisis has been dominating the news for quite some time, intensifying the pressure on us all to shift to a practicable and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Many progressive companies are starting to move away from their dependence on the national grid by investing in solar energy to generate the electricity they need for daily operations.

The development of solar technology has been advancing at a consistently fast pace, driving production costs down as demand grows. Nevertheless, solar panel installation remains a significant upfront investment and requires careful consideration. For instance; it is important to check for government incentives to offset the cost,  plan for maintenance and repairs to keep the system running smoothly, and anticipate the future and how the company’s energy needs may change.

Despite the initial outlay, installing solar panels is by far the cheapest energy source available and will demonstrate a company’s commitment to the environment, whilst raising its profile in the community.

Solar installations

The key to a successful solar installation is preparation, in the form of a comprehensive site survey. During the inspection, TSG UK’s solar specialists will determine the viability of the project, by checking the integrity of the roof to ensure it is structurally capable of withstanding the weight of the panels. If no issues are found, then the number of panels will be calculated, based on the energy requirements of the company. Historical electricity usage will be factored into the calculation, plus any plans for expansion or additional shifts, etc. The size and orientation of the roof, plus shaded areas are also important characteristics for consideration in the placement of the panels to ensure maximum energy output.

TSG UK is here to help all commercial and industrial (C&I) businesses make the transition to solar energy, including but not restricted to:

  • Offices
  • Retail – retail stores, shopping centres,
  • Industrial – warehouses, factories
  • Leisure – hotels, restaurants, sport facilities
  • Logistics  – haulage companies, public transport

Following the survey, the TSG solar team will advise customers of the full scope of the work, including all equipment costings (panels, electrics and inverters), installation times and expected results.

TSG will then carry out all of the electrical works, before fitting the solar panels to absorb the sun’s rays. The steady stream of electrical energy is generated as direct current (DC) and consequently, inverters are required to convert it to alternating current (AC) before it can be utilised in the facility.

Businesses can then enjoy low-cost energy to power daily operations, which can be supplemented by a top-up from the grid if necessary.

Solar energy storage

For businesses wishing to become increasingly independent from the national grid, battery storage provides the option to store all of the excess energy generated by the rooftop solar panels, for use at night or during cloudy weather.

Storage batteries do not need to be installed at the same time as the solar panels, they can be added to the system at a later date if required.

Flexible, lightweight, roll-up solar panels

Lightweight, rollable solar panels are a relatively new concept, ideal for forecourt canopies and other structures that are not strong enough to support the heavier glass panels. The popularity of these flexible panels is now gaining traction in the market, however, they are currently marginally more expensive than their glass counterparts. This pricing situation will undoubtedly change as demand grows and production costs decrease.

Service and maintenance of solar installations

TSG UK provides a professional service and maintenance programme for all of its solar installations, which typically includes a visual inspection of the panels, checks of the inverter, meter and other components, current and voltage check, inspection of roof condition, analysis of energy production and spot cleaning. It is important to include the cost of service from the onset of the project, as solar panels require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

Author & Contributors

Author: Cheryl Ashton
Contributors: Rene Willemsen, Niki Ramsden

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