Demand for solar in UK manufacturing goes through the roof

Precision engineering business Nylaplas’s new solar panel system
Precision engineering business Nylaplas’s new solar panel system

Solar energy specialist Solarsense has reported a 400% increase in commercial enquiries from the manufacturing sector during 2022, as soaring energy bills lead industry to look seriously at on-site solar energy generation.

This follows a report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) which revealed a massive acceleration in the installation of renewable power globally in the past year, surpassing even the agency’s own predictions by 30%.

While Solarsense has noted rising demand across a wide range of sectors including telecommunications and data centres, food and beverage, warehousing and distribution, the greatest increase in enquiries has come from large-scale energy users in manufacturing and engineering. The scale of projects has also grown significantly, from an average of 50KWp (the peak power of a system or panel) per installation previously to an average of 250KWp in 2022.

Before the introduction of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme in October, large users of energy saw costs skyrocket to 45-65p per unit, a circa 350% increase over the last year alone. Solar energy, in contrast, typically costs around 4p/kWh (taking into account capital outlay and generation over 20 years) and provides long term energy security.

Solarsense managing director, Stephen Barrett, said: “We’ve been in the solar industry for more than 25 years and the current level of enquiries is unprecedented. The efficiency of solar panels has dramatically improved in the last few years and when combined with the huge reduction in installation costs and increase in energy prices, the financial returns are extremely attractive.

“We are now seeing payback periods for the technology as low as between 2-5 years which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago – we were looking at payback periods of 100 years when we first started in the industry. We’re also finding that businesses which already have panels on south facing roofs are coming back to us as now east/west or even north facing aspects may be viable, given the energy crisis and high costs of energy from the grid.

Among the businesses to invest in new solar technology in 2022 was high performance plastic precision engineering business Nylaplas Engineering, which has installed a 114kWp solar panel system at its high-technology manufacturing site in Bristol.

According to the IEA, installed capacity of solar is set to surpass natural gas by 2026 and coal by 2027.


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