UK’s second largest community-owned solar plant to be built in Gloucester

Kevin Frea, of The Solar Co-op, with Teresa Durk, Rachel Davies and Michal Lesko from  Gloucestershire Resource Centre

Kevin Frea, of The Solar Co-op, with Teresa Durk, Rachel Davies and Michal Lesko from Gloucestershire Resource Centre

THE SECOND largest community-owned solar power plant in the UK is to be built in Gloucester, it was revealed this week.

A bank of 190 solar panels will be installed on the roof of City Works, home of Gloucestershire Resource Centre (GRC), in the Barton area of Gloucester.

And members of the public, along with users and tenants of the building, will be given the opportunity to invest in the project through the issue of community shares.

The installation of solar panels by the GRC, which was established to support groups involved in arts, play or education, has been a dream of the directors since they purchased the former shirt factory in 1995.

Lin Mathews, GRC’s managing director, said: “Our ethos is about reusing and recycling, and we would have loved to have included solar panel installation as part of the original refurbishment, but the cost was prohibitively expensive.

“Even now the cost of materials and installation is out of our reach – a public share issue is the only way for us to realise this dream and making it a community project, from which our 1,230 member organisations and the 50 people employed within City Works can benefit, sits well with our values.”

The roof at City Works – at which social enterprises and local community projects rent office accommodation above an art supplies shop, scrap store and dance studio – was considered ideal for the installation of solar panels because it faces south-east to south-west, and has a flat, unshaded surface with extends to 220ft in length.

The panels are expected to generate approximately 40,000 kWh of electricity a year, equivalent to the electricity used by 12 households.

Financing the installation of solar panels has been made possible by the introduction of the Feed-in Tariff, where the owners of small scale, low carbon electricity generators including solar plants, wind farms and hydro stations can receive a guaranteed fee for selling surplus electricity to the National Grid.

The £130,000 project is being managed by The Solar Co-op, a group of renewable energy experts who help householders, businesses and community groups benefit from solar panel installation. They were introduced to the directors by Co-operative Futures, a City Works tenant which promotes and supports the formation of co-operative businesses.

Kevin Frea, from The Solar Co-op, explained: “Members of the public will be given the opportunity to invest anything from £250 to £20,000 and can expect to see a five percent return, per annum, on their investment.

“Besides an interest in promoting renewable energy, we are also interested in making the benefits accessible to everyone. The Feed-In Tariff benefits those who can afford to have solar panels installed on their property. This scheme gives everyone the chance to invest in renewables and benefit from the tariff.”

A community shares prospectus will be issued during an official launch at City Works on Tuesday, July 5 at 7pm, after which potential investors will be invited to express their interest. Subject to planning consent and the success of the fundraising campaign, installation will start in the autumn.

Meanwhile, The Solar Co-op is looking for more community groups – including schools – in Gloucestershire and beyond who are interested in solar panel installation financed by the issue of community shares.

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