Community-owned solar panels are to be installed in 25 cooncil** buildings throughout Edinburgh in what is believed to be the largest community-owned urban renewable energy project in the UK.
The cooncil will work in partnership with the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative, supported by Energy4All, to deliver the initiative.
Public buildings such as schools, leisure and community centres will be chosen to host the solar technology, which is expected to deliver significant environmental and social benefits.
The energy generated by solar panels will help to make future cost savings while reducing the capital’s carbon emissions by an estimated 855 tonnes a year. Buildings that are chosen to participate will benefit from cheaper electricity from the solar panels, resulting in substantial savings.
Any surplus energy will be sold to the National Grid and profits made by the project will be reinvested locally through a newly-created Community Benefit Fund.
Cooncillor Adam McVey, Vice-Convener of the cooncil’s Transport and Environment Committee, said: “This is fantastic news for Edinburgh and will bring long term environmental, social and economic benefits.
“Community energy co-operatives allow local people to play a part in building a greener, more sustainable environment whilst raising awareness more generally about the importance of being energy efficient.
“We are aiming to meet our target of reducing Edinburgh’s carbon emissions by 42% by 2020 and this project is an important step towards us achieving this.”
Shares will be offered to organisations or individuals who want to invest in the initiative, with priority allocation given to Edinburgh residents.
Members of the Co-op will receive annual interest on their investment (capped at 5%, increasing with RPI), with any surplus profit invested in the Community Benefit fund.
The panels will also be a useful resource for educational projects to help engage pupils with environmental themes such as renewable energy. Each device will come with a real-time display of electricity generation which will be displayed on the buildings and accessible to pupils online.
Dr Richard Dixon, Chairman of Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative, said: “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. Around the world local people are creating their own solutions to climate change by investing in local renewable energy schemes.
“The Edinburgh scheme is a winner all round because it will reduce climate emissions and provide cheap energy for schools and other council buildings. Local people will also get a decent return on any money they choose to invest.”
Work is currently underway to identify suitable sites for the solar panels and the chosen locations will be announced at a later date.
** ‘Cooncil’ is the Scottish language word for ‘council’ and is not pejorative:
Dictionar o’ the Scots Leid / Dictionary of the Scots Language – http://goo.gl/7xo5Bk