How to check if your roof is suitable for solar: businesses

Not all commercial buildings are created equal, but most can sustain solar panels. Here are some key factors to consider.

Installing solar panels at your premises can do more than save you money on energy bills – it’s also a great way to demonstrate to your customers that you take sustainability seriously. But how do you calculate whether the expenditure is worth it?

“If you occupy the entire building, rooftop solar generally offers an attractive return on investment,” said Esther Bailey, Sustainability Engagement Manager at the City of Sydney. “That’s because larger installations generally cost less per panel than smaller ones.”

However, not all roofs are suitable. Here are the most important questions to ask if you’re considering rooftop solar.

How much roof space do I have?

Infrastructure such as cooling towers, rooftop gardens and window-washing cranes can all break up available roof space, so consider reorganising your roof where possible to maximise the uninterrupted area available for panels.

What direction does my roof face?

North-facing roofs are optimal for solar because they receive ample sunlight throughout the day. In a sunny location such as Sydney, east-facing and west-facing roofs also perform well. South-facing roofs are less suitable, particularly in built-up urban areas, but can still offer decent results if unshaded. See the SunSPoT Solar Potential Map here [HYPERLINK TO ARTICLE #2]

What angle is my roof?

Solar panels should be tilted between 10 degrees and 45 degrees for optimal performance. On flat roofs, roof brackets can hold panels at an angle, but these do incur some additional set-up costs.

Is my roof shaded?

The amount of shade your roof receives should be readily apparent, but don’t forget to consider how the situation might change: trees could grow – though some shed leaves in winter – and new buildings could be constructed.

Is the building in suitable condition?

Solar panels are heavy, so a structurally sound roof is essential. Because rooftops can be tricky to access once solar has been installed, consider conducting maintenance work beforehand. And check that the electrical infrastructure at the top of your building has adequate capacity and is in good repair.

Photo: Katherine Griffiths

What can I do if my business isn’t suitable for solar?

You can still enjoy the reputational benefits of renewable electricity and boost your energy-scheme rating without installing solar: consider signing up for GreenPower, which provides green electricity through the regular energy grid. Ask your retailer about their renewable product.

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