Edinburgh unveils ambitious community solar plans

Edinburgh Council has this week outlined plans to develop the largest community-owned renewable energy project in the U.K.

Working in partnership with the Edinburgh Community Solar Cooperative (ECSC) and supported by Energy4All, the council will seek to install rooftop solar PV panels across a number of public buildings in the city, including schools, community and leisure centers, and government buildings.

All solar energy harvested under the scheme will self consumed, with any excess power remaining sold to the National Grid and all profits then steered back into the local community via a new Community Benefit Fund.

Interested communities, organizations or individuals can sign up to invest in the solar initiative, which will offset an estimated 855 tonnes of carbon emissions each year once fully up and running. Edinburgh residents are given priority allocation in the scheme, but any person resident in Scotland can register at the ECSC website.

Members will enjoy annual interest capped at 5% increasing with RPI, while schools will be given educational sessions and projects to help spread the message of the benefits of solar PV power.

Chair of the ECSC, Richard Dixon, called the Edinburgh scheme a "winner all round", stating that not only will it reduce climate emissions and deliver cheap solar energy to schools and council buildings, but it will also educate locals and provide a decent return on their investment.

"2015 is an important year for climate change, with the world’s nations supposed to agree new global targets in Paris at the end of the year," said Dixon."Around the world local people are creating their own solutions to climate change by investing in local renewable energy schemes

WWF Scotland gives backing

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, welcomed the program, and called upon more homeowners in Scotland to follow suit and install renewable energy technology on their properties.

"Using council property to install solar panels is a smart move that over their lifetime will help the Scottish capital avoid thousands of tones of climate change emissions," he said. "In addition to improving the energy efficiency of buildings, we would very much encourage all local authorities to look into the possibility of using their land and buildings to generate clean energy."

Edinburgh has already enjoyed some success across its residential solar sector, in April registering enough sunshine to effectively meet all of the electricity and hot water needs of the 1,000+ homes fitted with solar panels in the city.

Across Scotland there are 35,000 residences and 600 business premises with solar PV arrays fitted. The ECSC is currently working on identifying suitable sites for the solar panels, with chosen locations set to be announced later this summer.