Community Funded Solar Powering Ahead In The UK

The UK’s Brighton Energy Coop (BEC) has raised more than £200,000 in just 3 weeks for a 200kW rooftop solar panel system project – the largest in the city.

Like other solar co-ops, members of the community chip in for the installation of solar array. Revenue is generated through feed in tariffs and sale of the power generated to the “solar landlords”, the businesses where the systems are installed.

BEC offers cash payments to building owners of up to £10,000 to host solar panels, plus discounted electricity for 20 years.

Brighton Energy Co-operative intends to pay investors interest of 5% average per annum, commencing a year after installation ends. Investments may also qualify for 30% tax relief under the UK’s Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS).  Shares cost just £1 each and the minimum buy-in is £400.

“By taking the power into our own hands, BEC is showing that the roll out of renewable energy – such an obvious way of transforming our energy supply – can be done with the power of community support,” says the BEC’s Will Cottrell.

Last year, the BEC  raised £240,000 for solar PV projects in Brighton and Portslade. At Shoreham Port, solar power systems were installed on five buildings at the Hove Enterprise Centre. A 35kW system was also installed on City Coast Church in Portslade and a 10kw PV system on St George’s Church in Kemptown.

There are now more than 50 similar solar co-ops in the UK.

Closer to home, by the middle of last year more than 60 communities throughout Australia had expressed interest in developing community owned wind and solar farms; but few had received funding to assist in the early stages.

Australia’s Fund Community Energy has been calling on the Federal Government to establish a $50 million grant program to support the development stage of community renewable energy projects.