With 90% of all rooftops across the EU sitting unused, the opportunity ahead could be enormous. It makes sense for those operating in these industries to pay close attention to the latest advancements in the rooftop PV space

Ushering in the Next Age of Rooftop Solar in Europe’s Commercial Space
Ushering in the Next Age of Rooftop Solar in Europe’s Commercial Space

Leandro Netz, who is Head of Business Area DACH | Solnet Group

The European commercial sector is advancing at a rapid pace, driven by a number of key technologies. One of the commonalities between the majority of these advancements, is that decarbonsation lies at the core. It is clear that the next wave of the industry will have greener technologies at their core, and that companies will also have greater autonomy over their own energy supplies. 

This shift presents a particularly interesting opportunity for businesses with large amounts of unused rooftop space, such as grocery stores and large commercial buildings. With 90% of all rooftops across the EU sitting unused, the opportunity ahead could be enormous. It makes sense for those operating in these industries to pay close attention to the latest advancements in the rooftop PV space, as they are set to play a major role in the years ahead.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the process of planning and installing a PV system has not gotten any simpler. This should not be the case. Solar PV, and renewables in general represent a shift to a more decentralized energy system. In order to realize the full benefits of decentralization, it is necessary for the barriers to install a system to be far lower than the centralized plants they are replacing. 


Solar innovation is changing gear

Solar innovation is now moving very much in line with what we have seen with tech in general in recent years. Considerable work has been done to lower entry barriers and to onboard corporations to new technologies – it could be argued that we have still not seen this happen at scale for solar PV. While many large commercial businesses have the resources to dedicate staff to the planning and managing of a plant, for many, switching over to a rooftop solar installation is simply not worth the effort despite the overwhelming benefits.

Thankfully, there have been significant developments in recent years that make the process of owning a rooftop PV system far simpler. In Europe in particular, it is now possible for small to medium sized businesses to take advantage of a rooftop system without needing to dedicate staff to the planning or construction of the system. In fact, the pieces are now in place for a wider rollout of smaller scale rooftop PV systems, as well as energy as a service models. This will benefit both smaller companies, as well as larger corporations with more decentralized energy needs, such as the aforementioned grocery chains or logistics providers.


Energy Cost certainty is more important than ever

This opens up the doors to almost any organization with free roof space to hedge against uncertainty in the European energy market. This presents a massive opportunity for European organizations to confidently secure their energy supplies for years to come. After a chaotic winter, this opportunity should not be taken lightly, especially with investor confidence in the region lower than it has been in recent years.

In Germany, Europe’s largest economy and the industrial heart of the EU, there is presently 66GW of solar PV installed, with 13.2% of that represented by rooftop systems. In the future, it is expected that annual growth will amount to an impressive 20GW per year, with 50% of that to be rooftop PV. This represents an immense opportunity for many businesses in the country.

Commercial buildings in particular present a great fit for rooftop solar. With multiple locations spread over large areas, such as the case for large grocery chains, being able to install multiple rooftop systems with a single partner is an extremely valuable opportunity. This value is compounded even further when you begin to implement additional technologies to unlock further efficiencies. One of the most obvious opportunities for sector coupling in the commercial space is with the integration of EV charging systems. Offerring integrated EV charging capabilities to customers could turn out to be a valuable differentiator in the years to come.


More data – for better performance

And all of this is ignoring a fairly significant elephant in the room – the continued, and ever accelerating pace of technological development. One of the most significant developments we are seeing, across technology types, is a greater ability to leverage data and analytics. This will have massive implications in the management and utilization of energy, and in many cases these advancements will require nothing more than an update to the software running in the background.

As we see data and software playing a continually bigger role in solar PV, we can expect the pace of innovation, and in turn the value to users to increase as well. This can be likened to the regular software updates that deliver improved performance to Tesla’s, which was preceded by those for our smartphones. Ten years ago, a car improving over its lifetime was unheard of – ten years from now, we may see rooftop PV systems undergo a similar transformation.

We can clearly see the rooftop PV space moving towards being more adaptive, reactive, and ultimately beneficial for a wider range of businesses. It has never been so easy, and so valuable for commercial business owners to install a rooftop PV system in Europe. The benefits will only grow as technology, as well as the utilization of data continues to improve. Europe’s commercial rooftops will likely look far different a decade from now – and the ones who are paying attention now have a great opportunity in front of them.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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