Following news on this site (August 2015) about the development of solar technology in Scotland, official data in December showed that renewable electricity generation in 2014 was – remarkably – equivalent to 49.7% of Scottish demand, up more than five percentage points from 2013.
Edinburgh Council’s news that community-owned solar panels are to be installed in 25 council buildings throughout the city was published on their website and widely reported in the media: “We are aiming to meet our target of reducing Edinburgh’s carbon emissions by 42% by 2020 and this project is an important step towards us achieving this.”
The Council will work in partnership with the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative – (ECSC) supported by Energy4All – to deliver the initiative, believed to be the UK’s largest community-owned urban renewable energy project.
ECSC is organizing a large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) project on Edinburgh roofs; up to 1.5MW of solar PV will be installed on 25 public buildings that have been investigated with the Council. The buildings have been selected to provide good income-generating capacity on buildings spread all around the city (see below) and used regularly by communities.
The directors decided that a project on Edinburgh roofs would offer the best chance of delivering a viable co-operative energy project in the city. Edinburgh is the lowest on the UK city league tables of installed PV and it is thought that this is because many people live in tenement flats, with no access to the roof. But even so far North historical sunlight figures for Edinburgh in EDSC’s calculations show that – while not as sunny as the South East of England – it works! South facing roofs have been selected, optimising orientation.
The public share offer was launched on 29th September, 2015, and raised £1.4m. By offering a capped return on share interest to members of 5% per annum and returning capital as we go, the co-op generates a surplus profit for community benefit. This is a model which has proved to work successfully in other cities throughout the UK and Europe.
Two installers were bidding for the work and, as it proved difficult to choose between them, ECSC decided to let each visit all the sites and come back with a firm price – one that wouldn’t increase during the structural design stages. Emtec was approved as the preferred supplier and ECSC will be proceeding with them subject to contract. The Board has also approved Onsite Renewables to project manage the construction.
ECSC has offered Edinburgh residents the chance to own solar panels collectively, do something positive about climate change and benefit financially while at the same time helping Edinburgh to become a cleaner, greener city. With Government incentives for community ownership, project scale and recent reductions in the cost of panels, roof mounted solar PV arrays are now a viable business model.