UK switches on nation's largest community-owned solar array


The U.K.’s largest community-owned rooftop solar array has now been connected to the grid in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

At 636 kW, it is by no means one of the U.K.’s largest rooftop array, but fits the criteria of biggest owned by the local community, having been funded and fitted by Oxford-based social enterprise Low Carbon Hub.

It is estimated that the array, which sits atop the headquarters of British motorsport and engineering group Prodrive, will inject more than £240,000 ($311,000) per annum into the Low Carbon Hub’s community benefit fund by feeding solar energy into the grid at 2015 FIT rates.

The Low Carbon Hub has a community energy manifesto that aims to generate £3.5 million ($4.55 million) in funds over 20 years, investing monies raised into community-backed and community-beneficial clean energy projects in Oxfordshire.

"We worked very hard during the 2015 clean energy dash to beat the FITs accreditation deadline for all of the projects in our 2016 Low Carbon Hub Solar PV share offer," said Low Carbon Hub CEO Barbara Hammond. "Now we want to invite local people who believe in a better energy system for Oxfordshire to invest in this portfolio of solar projects and earn themselves a bank-beating return."

Solar power is a good fit for Prodrive, which is currently developing electric and hybrid vehicles at the site. "It was very obvious that we should use our roof space to generate clean energy for the building," said Prodrive chairman David Richards. "The scheme is an excellent way to reduce our carbon footprint, lower our energy bills, while also generating significant funds to reinvest in further schemes within the local community."