Solar PV


Solar PV is a mature renewable energy technology, well suited to community renewable energy projects. Panels capture energy from the sun using photovoltaic cells. These cells do not need direct sunlight to work - they can still generate some electricity on a cloudy day. The cells convert sunlight into electricity, which can then be used directly on-site (e.g. within a community building or home) or exported onto the grid. Community solar can be developed in many different ways, from installing small arrays on domestic properties to large arrays on community buildings or ground-mounted in the form of a solar park.

In most cases the income from a community solar project comes from a government incentive, the feed-in tariff, as well as selling electricity back to the grid or through a Power Purchase Agreement and potentially through savings in on-site energy use.

What are the benefits?

There are a wide range of benefits to using solar PV in your community which include: -

  • Solar PV is a straightforward, well understood technology with a predictable output. This makes it easier to understand the associated costs and risks than with other technologies.
  • Roof-mounted solar PV is generally less controversial than many other technologies so planning permission is less of a barrier.
  • Solar PV offers a steady income stream via the feed-in tariff, with possible tax-breaks further improving the rate of return to local investors.
  • Community solar projects produce low carbon electricity which can be used to reduce the energy bills of a community building. Excess power is exported and therefore reduces the carbon emissions of the grid as a whole, providing both local and wider environment benefits.
  • Community owned solar projects can provide local economic benefit through building skills, creating new jobs and providing work for local installers.
  • Solar PV can be scaled to provide 100% of its output to a building. This will remove the need for an export grid connection and avoid any grid-constraints (e.g. over capacity from existing renewables)

What are the options for community owned solar?

There are many different development models that a community group can choose for their solar PV project. The following list gives a brief overview of different models to help you decide what level of community involvement you might choose. The options are examined in more detail in the solar PV module on the resources page.

Community group leads and develops the project - for this option the community group would take on the full role of developer. The group would take full responsibility for all the technical, commercial and financial risks and is responsible for managing the on-going budget. This is the most involved option, but offers the highest financial benefit and the ability to control all processes and outcomes.

Community group partnership - for this option the community group would identify and initiate the project but share costs and risks with another party in the form of a 'Shared Ownership Joint Venture'. This can make the process easier, however the benefits to the community group are reduced proportionally.

Community initiation - for this option a community group would identify a potential project, gain permissions to use the site and then negotiate with a developer to move the project forward. By initiating the project the community group can often negotiate favourable benefits. Although as the majority of the risks lie with the developer, so do the benefits.

Developer led with community sale offer - this option will have been initiated by a developer looking to get a community group involved. A developer will offer to sell the entire project (or a proportion) to a community group with the associated benefits.

Entirely developer - this option involves a project being entirely created and led by a developer. The community group is offered an annual community benefit payment. The entirety of the project risk lies with the developer, however community benefit is likely to be small in respect to the size of the project.

Access the full Solar PV module.

Further information

Rural solar PV projects can access the Rural Community Energy Fund RCEF administered by Wrap.

Ofgem provides guidance on how to benefit from the special provisions for community energy and school installations under the Feed-in tariff scheme and how to apply.

Ofgem also provides guidance on applying for large (>50kWp) solar installations. The page contains details on ROO-FIT accreditation and how to apply.

PowerPaired is a matchmaking service for community energy groups and the owners of sites with renewable energy potential.

OST Energy have created a rooftop performance enhancement guide.

BRE NCS and RECC have developed a guide on the basics of battery storage for solar PV systems and what to consider to work out if they are for you.


Related Projects

  • South East London Community Energy

    You can now invest in South East London's first community energy share offer. South East London Community Energy (SELCE) volunteers have invested over 4,000 hours to bring you the opportunity ...

  • Gawcott Fields Community Solar Project

    CfR is helping communities and renewable energy companies work together to develop and deliver shared ownership models for MW-scale solar and wind projects. This is one of our 'Split-FIT' solar ...

  • Community Renewable Energy Wandsworth (CREW)

    CREW is a voluntary group based in Wandsworth that works to create a sustainable income from clean energy. This income is dedicated to promoting well-being in disadvantaged communities in Wandsworth.

  • Brixton Energy

    We have come together to establish Brixton’s very own community-owned solar energy cooperative where we can own and generate our own electricity. We are looking for lots of people, ideas ...

  • Streatham Power

    Streatham Power is a community-owned social enterprise that exists to enable the local community to lead Streatham’s transition to a resilient and zero carbon energy future.

    The organisation evolved ...

  • Rosendale Energy

    Excited to be part of bringing sustainable solar community energy to Rosendale Primary School, All Saints Church, The Whytefield & Lairdale Estates in SE21 with Repowering Brixton and local residents

  • Communities Living Sustainably - Energy activity

    "Communities Living Sustainably" is a Big Lottery programme supporting twelve local sustainability projects with a climate change theme across England. This project on the Community Energy Hub aims to share ...

  • Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral project

    Located in rural Cheshire, Ashton Hayes is a well knit community of about 1000 people that is aiming to become England's first carbon neutral community. We started our journey in ...

  • Chapel Farm

    A former landfill owned by Swindon Borough Council this is an 8MW solar park on a shared ownership basis. The project is currently going through procurement and has a CIC ...

  • Common Farm

    Common Farm is a Swindon Borough Council owned farm that is being shared with the current onsite farming activities to deliver an 8MW solar park. The project is currently going ...

  • Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC)

    Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC) is a community benefit society formed by a group of local residents. Its aim is to empower the local community to develop and control its ...

  • Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley

    £80k raised by Grand Union Community Energy to install 50kWp solar panels on school roofs, generating since September 2013.

  • Solar SOAS

    Solar SOAS is a project to create a community energy project at SOAS, University of London by crowdfunding for solar panels on the university's unused roofs

  • Communities for Renewables CIC

    CfR is a specialist advisory company that helps local energy enterprises, local authorities and commercial developers to develop, finance and manage renewable energy generation schemes that are owned by and ...

  • Balcombe and Turners Hill Primary Schools

    In August 2015 we installed a 10kW solar PV system at Balcombe Primary School and a 16kW system at Turners Hill Primary School. We will also be installing a display ...

  • Chiddinglye Farm Community Solar Project - Repowering Balcombe

    REPOWERBalcombe are planning to build a 5MW solar farm a few miles from the village. The planning application is in a decision is due in early October!

  • Communities Living Sustainably in Dorset

    CLS helps people living in Bridport, Dorchester and surrounding areas to adapt to climate change and live more sustainable lifestyles.

    It works specifically on:

    Community renewable energy ...

  • Liverpool Solar Community

    A community shares offer to install solar panels on three community buildings and one school in Liverpool generating up to 100kWp and saving around £200,000 on energy bills over 20 ...

  • Ferry Farm Community Solar Project

    CfR is helping communities and renewable energy companies work together to develop and deliver shared ownership models for MW-scale solar and wind projects. This is one of our 'Split-FIT' solar ...

  • Tring Community Energy (TriCE)

    We are a Community Benefit Society and will launching our first share offer in the early part of 2016.
    We will be raising £45,000 to put solar panels on Tring ...

  • Community Energy GM

    18 diverse organisations across Greater Manchester are raising the funds they need for solar panels that will cut carbon, boost budgets and get local communities thinking about energy, fuel poverty ...

  • Cardiff Community Energy

    Solar on 5 Cardiff schools to be installed in August 2016.

  • Harveys Depot Lewes

    98kW of PV installed in 2011 by OVESCO using their first share issue

  • Sheffield Renewables (Paces Campus)

    50 kw solar scheme on a sports hall of community building

    Produces around 40k kw/h

    Install May 2014

  • Sheffield Renewables (Swinton Fitzwilliam Primary School)

    Swinton Fitzwilliam Primary School

    50 kw solar scheme

    Produces around 40k kw/h

    Install Nov 2014

  • Sheffield Renewables (South Yorkshire Police)

    South Yorkshire Police

    50kw solar scheme producing around 40 kw/h

    Install Dec 2015

  • Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-operative

    Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-operative (HREC) is a local co-operative identify and building community owned renewable energy system in Hampshire. Our first project was a 28MW Wind Farm at Bullington Cross. ...

  • Basingstoke Energy Services Co-operative

    Basingstoke Energy Services Co-operative (Bes Co-op) is owned by the local community for the benefit of the local community. We design and install renewable energy system with a main focus ...

  • Grand Union Community Energy Ltd. (GUCE)

    The objects of the Society shall be to carry on any business for the benefit of the community by:
    a) promoting reductions in carbon emissions and the sustainable use of ...

  • The Montessori Place Primary School, Uckfield

    Annan Court in Uckfield is undergoing a gradual refurbishment by The Montessori Place in order to be used as a school. The site is set in beautiful protected woodland near ...

  • Teign Energy Communities Ltd.

    As an umbrella Community Energy Society we want to work with others groups and organisations in Teignbridge to help them realise their Energy generation/saving projects. TECs can provide the know-how ...

  • South East London Community Energy

    SELCE is a grass-roots community energy group who work in Greenwich and Lewisham. SELCE aims to combat climate change by generating community owned renewable energy, whilst helping those in fuel ...

  • Bournemouth Community Energy Discussion

    Can we discuss the possibilities of starting a community energy project in Bournemouth?
    Bournemouth is currently far behind on it's green energy production targets compared to the rest of Dorset.

  • Bath and West Community Energy

    This project is listed by Community Energy England. For further information please see their website, listed above.

    If you own this project and want to edit this data please ...

  • Ealing Transition

    This project is listed by Community Energy England. For further information please see their website, listed above.

    If you own this project and want to edit this data please ...

  • Community Energy Birmingham

    We raise share capital and invest in renewable energy that serves community buildings and reduces their costs, while paying a fair return to local investors. Six projects completed and the ...

  • Community Energy Birmingham 2018 Share Offer

    Community Energy Birmingham has already installed 6 solar PV on roofs belonging to charities in this city. They benefit from cheap, fixed price electricity. Our ethical investors have been paid ...

  • Lambeth Community Solar

    Lambeth Community Solar (LCS) is Lambeth’s first borough wide energy co-op. We install community-owned solar panels on the roofs of schools and we want to lead Lambeth towards a green, ...

  • North Kensington Community Energy

    North Kensington Community Energy is the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s first energy co-op. For our Phase I, we installed 86.27 kW of solar panels on the Avondale and ...

  • Banister House Solar

    In 2015, a 102kWp solar PV system was installed on the roofs of the Banister House estate and its centre using £149,000 raised from 130 investors. During the course of ...

  • Vauxhall Energy

    The Vauxhall Energy project saw community-owned solar arrays installed on the roofs of five blocks in the Vauxhall Gardens Estate. The peak power of the arrays is 65kW, enough to ...

  • Community Energy Warwickshire

    Community Energy Warwickshire is a community-based energy co-operative which aims to help generate renewable energy and reduce energy consumption in Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull. It has installed solar panels on ...

  • City of London Community Energy

    Repowering is delighted to be developing the first ever community-owned solar project in the City of London. Working with local people and the City of London Corporation, the plan is ...

  • Hackney Energy

    Hackney Energy is a community energy group in Hackney, London.

    Hackney Energy aims to create renewable energy and low carbon projects that benefit the Hackney community by:

    generating ...

Related Categories