Energy/power typeSolar PV
The aims of Gloucester Community Energy Co-operative (GCEC) are to enable local communities and individuals to take part in exciting renewable energy schemes across the county, and to encourage energy saving initiatives. By installing solar panels on community buildings, and developing suitable sites for wind and hydro schemes, GCEC aims to give everyone in Gloucestershire a chance to benefit from low carbon, locally generated electricity.
About the project
GCEC started life in 2010 as FiVE Valleys energy Co-op, formed by a group of individuals who wished to install community based green energy systems in the Five Valleys area around Stroud. A few months after we were formed, Gloucestershire Resource Centre (GRC) – based at City Works in Gloucester – wanted to install solar photovoltaic panels but didn’t have the capital to fund the project. GRC contacted The Solar Coop for advice on how to set up a community scheme to fund them. The Solar Coop called a meeting at GRC of relevant organisations in Gloucestershire that might be interested, which included representatives from FiVE and Transition Town Cheltenham.
In 2013 we changed our rules and status to become a Community Benefit Society.
Initially GCEC considered developing renewable energy installations at a number of sites throughout Gloucestershire. However plans were scaled back to focus on the City Works installation when the Government announced that they were going to bring forward the deadline for reducing the Feed-in Tariff payment. The Renewable Energy Co-operative who are also a South West based co-operative, installed the 44.6 kWp solar photovoltaic system in December 2011, in time to meet the Feed-in Tariff deadline. The array comprises 186 photovoltaic panels (each 240w), three SMA inverters as well as a public display. The roof has a plain unshaded surface that extends 220 feet in length and faces south west.
There were 49 members originally who each subscribed to an average of just over £2000 of shares each. Almost everyone lives or works in Gloucestershire.
We have recently been awarded a Power to Change ‘Next Generation Fund’ grant.
We plan to develop a business model based on distributed systems of solar PV and battery installations in over 400 dwellings. Working with Stroud District Council, the project would take place across the council’s sheltered housing estate. The battery capacity would join Ecotricity’s Virtual Power Plant to provide a grid balancing service to the national grid. The project is still evolving, now being designed to include Heat Pump elements to further decarbonise the housing stock making use of the Renewable Heat Incentive.
The model would provide an exemplar for how community energy groups can partner with local councils and electricity companies to deliver innovative, investable and sustainable projects with significant beneficial social impacts, including reduced electricity costs and wider understanding of smart low carbon projects.
We generated renewable energy through our solar photo voltaic array on the roof of the Gloucester Resource Centre. This provided free electricity for the Resource Centre and its users, thus reducing costs for a local charity which provides services for the local community, and the other organisations that are based in the building. The generation of renewable energy reduced dependence on fossil fuels, thus cutting carbon emissions, thereby giving a global as well as a community benefit.
Our income is from the Feed in Tariff paid to us for the generation of electricity plus any excess exported from our solar energy installation.
Our Rule number 95 determines how any profit should be applied, as follows:
a) to a general reserve for the continuation and development of the Society - As well as the costs of running the Society, reserves are being accumulated with a view to repaying members' shares.
b) to paying interest on issued share capital - £4,782 was paid as 5% interest to members who had provided the capital costs of the solar array by buying community shares.
c) to making payment for social or community purposes within the community served by the Society - 20% of FiT income, is given to the Gloucester Resource Centre, thus providing them with valuable additional income to further benefit the community.