Community Energy Plus News

£20+m fund launched to provide free PV for community buildings

A Cornish sustainable energy charity has taken a pioneering approach to helping community buildings, academy schools, churches, charities and farmers to generate their own renewable energy after securing an investment package of £20 million from local PV installers.

Community Energy Plus launched ‘Solar Communities 2011’ at the Cornwall Renewable Energy Show today, (28th July) providing access to a £20 million fund to invest in roof-mounted solar PV installations.

Buildings taking up the offer will be able to take advantage of free electricity generated by the systems ranging in size from 2 kW to 50 kW but unlike other ‘rent a roof schemes’ will also receive an income from any electricity not used within the building that is exported to the National Grid.

With the maximum size of 50kW systems on offer, eligible buildings could save up to £7,000 a year on their electricity bills by using all of the energy as it is generated, or receive an income of up to £2,400 a year for exporting all of the electricity produced to the National Grid.

Over the next eight months the charity expects to help more than 300 local organisations to take up the offer before the deadline of the 1st April 2012.  Although four participating solar companies have pledged a total of £20 million to date, Community Energy Plus is confident that further investment can be secured if there is a strong take up of the scheme.

Neil Farrington, Sustainable Energy Projects Manager at Community Energy Plus explained the significance of the project as it unlocks social, environmental and economic benefits for participating buildings: “We’ve developed this scheme in response to the challenge that many non-commercial organisations face when looking to get their own renewable energy projects off the ground.  Many lack the upfront investment to buy a system outright but are also wary of the limitations of ‘rent a roof’ offers.  At a time when grant funding for such initiatives has greatly reduced and energy bills are continually rising, this offer provides a fantastic but limited-time opportunity for community buildings to secure multiple benefits of the renewable energy revolution.” 

Handling the initial enquiries and working as an impartial intermediary and advisor, Community Energy Plus will use their expertise of working with community projects to demystify the process of embarking on renewable energy projects for organisations with little experience in the field. 

In addition to evaluating the technology on offer and helping organisations understand how PV systems could help to meet their own energy needs or generate an export tariff income, the charity will also be able to support buildings to enter joint ventures with installers.

The lease contracts with the installers will be for a fixed term of 25 years, with ownership of the equipment passing to the building at the end of the contract, after which the technology is expected to still be 80 per cent efficient.

The Cornwall based installers involved in the Solar Communities 2011 scheme are Clean Earth Energy, Plug Into The Sun, Solar Solutions and Solen Energy UK.