The Big Solar Co-op, a pioneering new UK-wide community energy group, wants to unlock the huge potential of rooftop solar on community and commercial buildings in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin.
It offers a new, nationwide model for developing community-owned rooftop solar projects designed to overcome the issues some localised community energy groups have been facing since the government removed the Feed-In Tariff subsidy in 2019.
To achieve the first phase of its target – 100 MW by 2030 – it has recently launched its first share offer to the public. This aims to raise £1.2 million to build three solar installations in the Midlands and continue to develop a pipeline of rooftop arrays.
Jon Hallé, co-founder, Big Solar Co-op, said: “Our starting point is, how do we get solar on more large rooftops in the UK? There are hundreds of thousands of potentially suitable buildings which still do not have solar PV. We calculate that these could contribute at least 5 GW of solar capacity.
“We’ve come up with an offer which is much more appealing to big energy users than commercial rent-a-roof schemes. Our terms are more flexible and as a carbon-first organisation we are not taking big profits out so the savings to host sites are significant.”
The Big Solar Co-op centralises processes and resources such as feasibility studies, solar array designs and legal agreements. This allows volunteers in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin to focus on finding suitable rooftop sites and make solar projects actually happen.
It also offers more flexible terms to organisations wanting to install solar on their rooftops, and as a community energy organisation motivated by reducing carbon emissions rather than purely profit, its projects are likely to be more appealing to potential host businesses, such as leisure centres, colleges and manufacturing companies.
The first three rooftop installations will be 300 kWp on a food-processing plant in Tenbury Wells; 120 kWp on a farm machinery manufacturer in Ludlow; and 30 kWp on a doctors’ surgery in Birmingham, to include electric vehicle charging powered by the solar array.
A substantial pipeline of other large rooftop sites across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin and nationally is also under development.
The share offer aims to pay investors a target annual return of 4%, with the first interest payment payable in autumn 2024. The minimum investment is £100 and the maximum is £100,000. Share interest will be tax free for some shareholders under the Personal Savings Allowance scheme and shares can be passed on free of Inheritance Tax.
Kevin Oubridge, Big Solar Co-op local coordinator for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, said: “With so many challenges facing organisations across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, getting us to do the hard yards of planning, installing and maintaining rooftop solar makes total sense. It’s free, will save them money and reduce their emissions! It’s also a great opportunity for the people of Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin to invest in making a real difference to climate change.
“Our aim is to get 100 MW on rooftops nationally by 2030, which is equivalent to the electricity usage from 30,000 homes, and we’re making a start by targeting businesses and other organisations in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin. We already have a number of potential projects underway. I am immensely grateful to our supporters who have already invested and hope many more will come on board. It really is an exciting opportunity.”
The share offer opened to pre-registered investors on 24 June and has already attracted over £480,000 in investment. It will close in three months or as soon as the full target is reached.
The Big Solar Co-op is completely owned by members of the public, who either volunteer their time, invest, or both. Investor members will control 25% of votes in the Big Solar Co-op, with the remaining 75% controlled by volunteer worker members.
The Big Solar Co-op is looking for volunteers to get solar on big rooftops locally, so if you know anywhere suitable, get in touch with them directly.
If you want to find out more about volunteering for the Big Solar Co-op email Kevin Oubridge, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Big Solar Co-op Local Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Said Kevin: “We hope to be bringing volunteers on as members in the autumn. All volunteers will be members and co-owners of Big Solar Coop for as long as they continue to volunteer. The legal structure of Big Solar Co-op is specifically set up for this.”
To find out more and download a Share Offer Document please visit https://bigsolar.coop/invest