Bristol Energy Cooperative solar projects
Share offer two success, share offer three plans
23 February 2015
Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) have recently completed three of four solar PV installations funded by their second share offer – a 10kW install at Bristol Folk House, 20kW at The Mill and 50kW at South Bristol Sports Centre. The latter two and Redcatch Community Centre, where a fourth project is starting soon, are Bristol City Council (BCC) buildings. These installations form part of a pilot for community-funded solar PV on council-owned buildings, and its success means that the council is making more roofs available for up to approximately 500kW of panels.
The first community share offer, back in 2012, was set up with finance from the Bristol Community Energy Catalyst Fund, a BCC council scheme that was administered by CSE. The funds allowed BEC to cover the administrative costs of establishing as a Co-op, and the development work needed to get the projects to a stage where they were investment ready.
Bridget Newbery managed the fund. She said “We were really pleased to provide support and help the Co-operative, as winners of the Community Energy Catalyst Fund, to establish themselves back in 2011. It’s great to see they will now be generating even more solar power on the roofs of Bristol’s community buildings.”
The aim of the Catalyst Fund was to help community projects transition from an idea to a successful enterprise. Access to finance is one the main barriers for community ventures, as investment is riskiest at these early stages of development. BEC is now well established and shows what value well-thought through, community-based initiatives can have. As a community-owned cooperative, members receive interest on their investment and any surplus is earmarked for future projects. This is currently being used to prepare for the third share offer, which is being scaled up for Bristol’s year as European Green Capital. The roof offer will be extended to commercial buildings as part of the Green Capital GoGreenBusiness initiative, so these should feature alongside BCC roofs.
Another Bristol community share-offer project to become a reality is Low Carbon Gordano. The group received finance to investigate potential projects from the Government’s Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF). CSE offered support and expertise to 20 local energy groups who were awarded funding through the scheme, and this 2MW solar array is now under construction. It will consist of more than 7,500 solar panels, generating enough energy to power 500 homes. And the project doesn’t end once the development is complete. The co-operative will use surplus income from the renewable energy system to fund work that reduces people’s energy consumption – for example, by improving home energy efficiency. Something we at CSE are pretty keen on ourselves!