Social funding network Sharenergy believes its new national portfolio approach will succeed in unlocking the 5GW solar potential of Britain’s commercial and community roofs.
Under the banner Big Solar Co-op, Sharenergy has launched a £1.2 million share flotation, benefitting three PV ventures in the Midlands. The co-op is looking to expand that pipeline to 100MW by the end of this decade.
Easing national fundraising & development for individuals seeking to reap solar’s rewards for community & commercial roofs is Big Solar Co-op‘s core proposition.
That estimated 5GW potential for clean power generation is, they claim, equivalent to the yearly output of Britain’s nuclear power plants.
Big Solar Coop co-founder Jon Hallé explained: “There are hundreds of thousands of potentially suitable buildings which still do not have solar PV”.
“Our offer 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.
“We also have a great offer for volunteers who want to make more solar happen in their neighbourhood”, Hallé, – pictured above, front row – went on. By operating across the UK and providing support, we can make it happen together, making a difference to climate change.”
The Big Solar Co-op centralises processes and resources such as feasibility studies, array designs and legal agreements. Skills gaps which previously held back big community-owned solar are thus filled, leaving local activists to focus on finding suitable rooftops and woo over tenants and owners.
Development skills gaps filled
Their business model, Big Solar believes, will make solar more appealing to roof-owning hosts, including commercial landlords of business tenants, and particularly on public sector roofs such as leisure centres and colleges.
Big Solar’s first three solar installations will be 300 kWp on a food-processing plant in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire; 120 kWp on a farm machinery manufacturer in Ludlow; and 30 kWp on a doctors’ surgery in Birmingham.
The launch share offer indicates a target annual return of 4%, payable first in autumn 2024. The minimum stake is £100, and the maximum £100,000. For some investors, share interest will be tax-free under the Personal Savings Allowance scheme. Shares can be passed on free of Inheritance Tax.
Hallé added: “Setting up the Big Solar Co-op to work on a national scale creates new opportunities for organisations wanting solar roofs. By pooling our resources and taking a portfolio approach to developments, we are spreading risk and making solar rooftops viable even in the absence of government subsidy”.
The share offer opened to pre-registered investors on 24 June. It has already attracted over £250,000 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.
More details are here.
A variety of investment routes have opened up in recent years for private individuals wishing to participate in Britain’s renewables boom.
From conventional closed-end investment trusts, to crowd-funding particular projects through private companies such as Abundance Investment, the possibilities range too to local co-operatives seeking predominately local backers for a series of individual projects.
Lobbyists for community energy reckon Britain has around 400 of the latter form of co-ops in operation.
A spokesperson for Big Solar Co-op claimed that no conflict need arise between the latter two investment models. Big Solar Co-op’s model was to use a portfolio approach, minimising risk such as managerial inexperience, and accelerate PV deployment on as many roofs as possible and nationwide.
Project development experience already accumulated within the Big Solar Co-op team could even complement locally based co-ops, she said.
Interest declared: This writer invests in several UK clean energy co-operatives.