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UK warehouse roofs could provide 14TWh of solar power

Published September 16, 2022

UK warehouse roofs could provide 14TWh of solar power

UK warehousing has enough roof space to meet National Grid’s minimum requirements for solar expansion by 2030, enabling the sector to become a net producer of green energy.

The UK’s 20% largest warehouses can provide 75million square metres of roof space. If warehouse owners and leaseholders used the space available to them, these areas could produce up to 13.8 TWh of electricity per year. This would enable the warehouse sector to become a net producer of green electricity.

A report from the UK Warehousing Association has found the sector may be able to provide an unparalleled amount of accessible space for rooftop solar PV close to industrial and residential centres.

Rooftop solar PV in warehousing can play a significant role in delivering local renewable energy, particularly in urban areas where alternative options are restricted due to land and planning constraints.

Commercial electricity prices have doubled since the start of 2022 and are set to continue to rise into 2023. Solar PV can reduce annual electricity costs by 40-80% and protect occupiers against future electricity price rises while preparing for increased demand from electrification of heat and transportation. In aggregate rooftop solar PV has the potential to save the industry £3 billon per rooftop.

Sean Prior, a sustainability consultant and lead assessor at Alfa Energy commented: “We are getting lots of interest about this and one of our biggest property management clients is a major investor in light industrial units.” 

Prior has some tips for those thinking of putting PV on roofs:

  • When re-roofing think about the covering used: the wrong covering could mean you prevent the building being used for PV. For instance, if there is a plastic coating like PVC, this may prevent the use of light weight thin film solar cells.
  • Thin film solar cells work better in low light conditions (spring, autumn, winter and British summers. Thin cells start generating earlier in the day and later in the evening making up for the lower system efficiency.
  • You will need a structural engineer to assess the building suitability to support the solar cells, along with the roof, the insulation and the appropriate snow loading for the regional location of the site.