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By Markus Hamacher

From unused commercial roof to solar farm

Logistics centers, production facilities, shopping centers - commercially used real estate in this country has a hitherto underutilized potential for photovoltaics (PV), a key technology in the use of solar energy. Roofs are particularly suitable, if only because of their often considerable size. Why have so few commercial rooftops in Germany been converted into high-performance systems that turn sunlight into clean and renewable electricity?

Challenges in utilization

  • Legacy of tax nonsense: One reason is that commercial properties that are rented out have long been threatened by the so-called trade tax infection of rental income that is actually exempt from trade tax. The effect was as bad as the word "infection" sounds: landlords did not want to be penalized for contributing to environmental and climate protection - and did not install PV on their roofs. The regulation is a thing of the past, but it has meant that we have lost valuable years - and are therefore still at the very beginning.

  • Statics and construction: There is also the question of the statics of a building. Lightweight halls, for example, are often unable to bear the additional weight of PV systems. Depending on the type of use, the same applies to other types of building with non-load-bearing internal walls or missing central supports. Incidentally, not only the PV modules themselves, but also the mounting system and cabling must be supported. The additional weight of any roof insulation must also be taken into account. When planning commercial properties, care must be taken to ensure that the statics are suitable for photovoltaics.

  • Formal requirements: Another hurdle is the regulatory aspect. This is because solar systems in Germany must be certified if they have a feed-in power of 135 kilowatts or more. Although this ensures technical integrity, it means additional work for operators. Selling the electricity generated on the electricity exchange also requires a bureaucratic effort for systems over 100 kilowatts, which puts many people off.

  • Different regulations for commercial roofs: In Germany, there is otherwise a fragmented legal framework: The differences in the individual federal states range from regulations on the maximum size and output of systems to different subsidy programs and tax incentives. Companies with branches in different federal states or owners.

New opportunities through innovation

But there is light at the end of the tunnel: on the one hand, technology companies are developing ever lighter solar modules that are better suited to roof structures that cannot bear any additional weight. On the other hand, there are innovative mounting systems that enable quick and safe installation without compromising the roof structure. In addition, new financing models and subsidy programs are on the rise that reduce the initial investment for companies. For example, many cities and municipalities offer incentives or grants for companies that want to invest in renewable energies.

Additional impetus for ESG and climate protection

PV systems also offer potential in the much-discussed area of green roofs: the shading effect of the modules improves the microclimate for planted areas under and between the modules. This enables higher quality ecological concepts, including better habitats for insects, for example. This offers potential advantages in the creation of building rights, keyword ecological compensation, and for the ESG reporting of owners through the sensible interlinking of two areas that are often considered separately. The issue of statics - as mentioned above - must of course also be considered at an early stage.

Expertise and navigation required

Westbridge has the necessary knowledge around the legal and practical hurdles of PV installations and offers advice across Germany. With our expertise and experience, we can work with property owners and corporates using their own properties to navigate through regional differences to find the best possible solution for their specific requirements. This means that we not only expressly accompany the initial planning, we also provide complete support through to successful implementation on request.