Unused warehouse roofs could generate ‘15GW a year’ in solar energy, says UKWA

Unused warehouse roofs could generate ‘15GW a year’ in solar energy, says UKWA. Image: Waxman Energy.

The United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA) has emphasised the need to scale solar generation capacity on warehouse roofs in order to tackle the ongoing energy crisis.

The organisation argues that unused roofs on warehouses total 18,500 acres of land, which is currently unused for solar. This means the UK is missing out on 15GW of solar energy, according to the UKWA.

But there hass been a failure to enable warehouse owners to install solar panels on the roofs of their buildings over the recent decades, which has led to the sector not living up to its potential.

The trade association found that Bitish industry could play a vital role in scaling renewable technologies and generation, as explored in a new report commissioned from consultancy Delta Energy & Environment (Delta-EE).

For solar, should a third of all warehouses in the UK utilise solar generation at their warehouses, they could double the UK’s solar PV capacity and also deliver the entire requirement for the UK’’s 2030 target.

UKWA’s report highlighted that this could cut warehousing electricity costs from between 40-80% and save the warehousing sector £3 billion a year.

“Warehouse owners across the country are struggling to pay for gas-powered electricity from the grid, when they could be generating all the power they need and more from the roof of their buildings,” said Clare Bottle, chief executive of UKWA.

“Out of sight, easy to maintain and affordable, the case for solar should be obvious and yet we are being held back by poor market practice and failures of regulation.”

Restricting the rollout of this however is District Network Operators (DNO), states the UKWA. The organisation claims the “extortionate and highly ineffective monopolist gatekeepers” are preventing businesses investing in energy generation and connecting to the energy grid.

“We need a fundamental rethink of the way in which DNOs hold power over access to the grid, how they get renewable schemes connected to the grid and the prices they charge,” argued Bottle.

Several recommendations have also been made by the UKWA in order to promote solar’s use within the warehousing sector. This is categorised across planning, funding and tax.

In planning, the UKWA highlights the barriers presented by grid permits and recommends wholesale reform of the way DNOs operate and their regulation by Ofgem.

On funding, the government’s super deduction on capital investment, due to end in April 2023, must be extended to 2030 to support levelling up by addressing upfront investment concerns, states the UKWA.

The final recommendation is based on tax, with solar energy currently except from business rates. UKWA states this must be preserved, in recognition of the important role solar will play in a greener economy.

“Rooftop solar PV in warehousing can play a significant role in delivering local renewable energy, particularly in urban areas where limited alternative options are available due to land and planning constraints,” said Laurence Robinson, senior analyst at Delta-EE and co-author of the report.

“Just 20% of the UK’s largest warehouses can provide 75million square metres of roof space, avoiding the need to develop new land equivalent to the footprint of 500,000 houses.”

The call for an expansion of rooftop solar in the warehousing sector comes as the debate around land use and solar rages. The topic came to the fore during the recent Conservative leadership contest, as both candidates lashed out at ground-mount solar, claiming it had a negative impact of food security by taking up land that could be used for crops. 

If every solar farm currently put forward was built, this would still account for less than 0.4% of the UK’s agricultural land and 0.28% of the UK’s entire land area, according to Solar Energy UK.

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