Recent months have shown the Irish energy market to be unstable and unpredictable, with the effects being felt particularly by high-use buildings such as those in the industrial or commercial sector. Meanwhile, the additional push for NZEB (Net Zero Energy Buildings) is incentivising properties to lower their energy-associated carbon emissions in both their construction and operation. With businesses not benefiting from the energy price cap protecting millions of homes across the country, the price of energy is an uncontrollable concern – but what are the solutions to counter it?
Why should I be concerned about energy prices?
With the Irish electricity system being supported heavily by gas and other fossil fuels, often imported from overseas, times of high demand mean higher carbon emissions and higher prices. This volatility means prices are often uncontrollable and variable, so, even if a commercial building is on a fixed tariff, drastically. In addition to the increasingly expensive fossil fuels powering Irish electricity generation, investment in large-scale renewable generation to reach net zero, and improvements to the national grid to cope with changing demand patterns, are set to be passed on to the consumer, again in the form of higher unit prices. Businesses operate on stability and informed future trends, so it makes little sense to have faith in such a dynamically priced system.
Understanding PV systems
PV (Photovoltaic) panels convert energy from the sun to usable electricity. In around an hour, enough solar energy hits the earth’s surface to power the entire global community for an entire year. We would only have to tap into a tiny fraction of that total to satisfy our individual needs. Although the UK and Ireland are renowned for their sunny credentials, the heat of the environment isn’t what determines the success of a solar system, but the amount of light present.
Once installed, a rooftop PV array will absorb energy whenever the sun is present. This presents a unique advantage for commercial or industrial properties. During daytime hours, when there is usually lots of activity, there is typically daylight — creating solar generation to power those activities. Unlike domestic properties, which usually draw large amounts of energy in the evening when the sun isn’t shining, the overlap between solar presence and activity in industrial properties is much higher.
Something to always implement before or during a PV system’s installation is efficiencies in the property – whether incorporating daylighting to reduce energy use, or increasing the thermal efficiency of a building envelope. Every kWh of energy saved improves the operational cost and carbon impact of a space.
How can PV systems help my property?
Generating energy onsite allows building operators to offset their usage partially or completely — even creating income from selling generated energy back to the grid. Even better, those properties which implement battery storage of some form (whether chemical batteries or hot water systems) can store energy at times of high production and low demand to use at times when energy draw is higher. This reduces energy use from the grid, reducing overall load at peak times and reducing costs. Generation combined with energy storage also presents the opportunity for properties to protect themselves from power cuts or unpredictable power supply, shielding productivity from unstable grid conditions.
The scale and type of system will vary from property to property — considering system size, orientation, storage, and maximum power demand. For example, a warehouse will have extremely different project requirements from a data centre or the site of a product manufacturer. However, what stays constant is the aim of reducing, completely offsetting or net exporting energy. No matter how much energy reduction from the grid is achieved, cost savings will present themselves.
With solar panels, batteries, and other ancillaries becoming more cost-effective and energy prices at an all-time high, payoff periods for the capital investments on these systems are lower than ever and are continuing to improve.
Two systems in one
Whether the aim is to improve the operational carbon of a property or reduce the energy costs associated with inhabiting a space, Solar PV and other on-site renewable generation have never been so appealing — and there are many innovative solutions to choose from.
For instance, Kingspan’s new PowerPanel Solar PV Pitched Roof Panel presents the opportunity for the specifiers of new or refurbished projects to hit two birds with one stone. It combines the thermal excellence of QuadCore with a scalable integrated PV unit, reducing the complexity of installation and being much lighter than having separate units – allowing for more efficient building structures and lower construction costs.
Learn more about the Kingspan PowerPanel