Does building photovoltaic plants make sense for small businesses?

The value of the investment depends on a number of factors - type of equipment, location of the property, place of installation of the plant, as well as the nature of the production cycle

Energy / Analysis / Interview
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In the last few years, photovoltaic power plants (PVs) have become one of the main alternative energy sources worldwide for various industries. Every business, whether in the industrial sector or in the service sector, needs a power supply to be able to perform essential functions in its facilities and to have no interruption in production processes.

Therefore, having the best energy solution is a key point when it comes to reducing the fixed costs of economic activity. If companies have not included the construction of solar installations in their investment program, the costs of purchase and installation can be regulated, as suppliers increasingly offer lease purchase options as well as ESCO financing.

What is FEC? Kinds.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Photovoltaic Power Plants (PVPs) save costs and provide security of electricity supply for businesses.

Photovoltaic plants can be of several types, the main ones being used for own needs and those for sale on the free market. With the rising cost of electricity, an increasing number of companies are building their PVs for their own needs, which help to offset the particularly high running costs associated with the most energy-intensive operations, while helping to reduce the company's carbon footprint.

Here we have listed the main benefits that industry can get when choosing to power their facility with a solar installation.

Reduced electricity bills

Typically, the electricity bill represents about 15% of the total cost. Solar energy tariffs are about 20% cheaper than conventional electricity. Solar energy has become a sustainable and cost-effective energy alternative for business owners with a fixed cost solution with a life expectancy of 25-30 years. This makes your energy bills more predictable at lower costs.

Renewable energy

Solar energy is a 100% clean, renewable energy source that reduces dependence on oil, coal and natural gas for electricity generation. These fossil fuels produce harmful emissions that affect air, water and soil quality and are responsible for global warming. According to experts, by 2065 our planet will lose more species of plants and animals to extinction than in the previous 65 million years combined. These statistics show the greenhouse gas effects of fossil fuels.

On the other hand, solar energy does not create pollution. The power of the sun is an unlimited source of energy that does not harm the ozone layer. Industrial solar energy systems are an investment in the future of the planet that can help preserve non-renewable energy sources and protect the environment.

Energy efficiency

Installing solar panels on your company roof can increase the value of your property and help you sell faster if you intend to do so in the future. When a building has solar panels, some of the energy the building needs can be produced by the solar panels, meaning that short-term and long-term operating costs will be lower compared to comparable buildings that do not have PV installed.

Reducing the carbon footprint

Unlike fossil fuels, solar panels generate electricity without air or carbon pollution and without ash or other waste products. More and more companies are now looking for a supplier with low carbon emissions and the end customer pays attention to this argument and the corporate social responsibilities of their supplier.

Low maintenance costs

The maintenance of a PV plant is relatively easy - the main maintenance costs are the cleaning of the solar panels to ensure the highest percentage of electricity produced, monitoring and on-site inspections.

The most reliable solar panel manufacturers offer a 20-25 year warranty. Since there are no moving parts, there is no wear and tear. The inverter is usually the only part that needs to be replaced after 5-10 years as it is constantly working to convert solar energy into electricity and heat (solar PV vs solar thermal). In addition to the inverter, the cables also need maintenance to ensure that the PV array operates at maximum efficiency. This means that after covering the cost of the initial investment, the maintenance and repair costs are relatively low.

Independence in electricity consumption

Renewable energy from an inexhaustible source of resources like the sun can be used very efficiently in all kinds of industrial processes. By investing in FEC, industrial enterprises stop depending on trading companies with electricity distribution companies and the prices they dictate. In most cases, no power generation service interruption is experienced, which provides security in power generation.

Improving the image of the company

The choice with the transition to renewable energy positions the companies as forward-thinking and innovative businesses. Building an ecological and sustainable image presents companies in a different light, following global trends.

The investment

The value of the investment depends on a number of factors - type of equipment, location of the property, installation location of the plant, as well as the nature of the production cycle. Building a PV plant for own needs is an easy procedure, especially if it is properly sized and designed so that 100% of the electricity produced is absorbed. Depending on the production consumption of the system, a battery (batteries) can be provided for the system to store electricity, which makes it possible to feed the excess energy into the electricity network or to optimize the process when the operating mode is changed.

Installations for own needs have a low cost of investment, as well as a payback period between 4 and 7 years, especially for industrial enterprises with high electricity consumption. Through energy monitoring, the management of the FEP leads to a high efficiency of the produced electricity. A reduction in electricity costs of more than 70% is achievable for single-shift operations.

The procedure for building your own photovoltaic power plant follows several steps. An application for the construction of a power plant is submitted to the electricity distribution company (EPC). After approval by the ERP, a project is prepared, which is entered for approval by the ERP. After approval by the ERP, the relevant municipality is entered to obtain a final construction permit. In general, the procedure for construction and connection to the power grid is also relatively easy, and the period from processing the documentation to the installation of the PEP can take between 4-6 months on average.

Most small industrial enterprises in Bulgaria need to install photovoltaic plants with a power between 30 kWp and 150 kWp, and for greater efficiency a combination with batteries for storing electricity is recommended.

The average investment value for the technological equipment of a power plant with a productivity of 150 kWp is about BGN 250 thousand, depending on the built configuration.

Some of the enterprises in Bulgaria have not foreseen such an investment program, given the uncertainty of the economic situation on a global scale. That is why they can trust ESCO engineering companies. ESCO companies offer the construction of photovoltaic power plants with a guaranteed result, where the value of the investment is recovered solely from the guaranteed savings resulting from the operation of the new facilities, according to a previously prepared financial plan.

When concluding an ESCO contract, all risks are borne by the contractor and the client does not need to invest his own funds. Through this type of contractual relationship, the ESCO company provides engineering or energy surveying of the enterprise, delivery, installation and commissioning of energy efficient equipment.

Due to the disrupted supply chain, it should be kept in mind that prices and delivery times for PV equipment are constantly changing. This includes solar panels, of which China is the main producer, as well as grid inverters. Choosing a professional engineering company that can build a project according to the needs of the enterprise and guarantee security of supply and project execution is of particular importance.

The green transition is the basis of the sustainable production to which Europe strives. Reducing carbon emissions can be a quick transition by using renewable energy sources. It is for this reason that Bulgarian industry needs to use the financial instruments offered by the European Union to establish climate neutrality and implement ESG policies.

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