Largest community-owned solar PV rooftop project completed in Oxfordshire

The 636kW system has been installed on the Banbury headquarters of Prodrive and will generate £240,000 for a community benefit fund. Image: Prodrive.

Work on what is claimed to be the largest community rooftop solar scheme in the UK has been completed in Oxfordshire and is set to begin generating clean energy and revenues before the end of the month.

The 636kW system has been installed at the Banbury headquarters of motorsports and engineering firm Prodrive and is one of 13 projects to be completed on schools and business over the summer by Oxford-based social enterprise Low Carbon Hub.

The scheme has been funded through a mix loans and a community energy share offer, which offers returns of at least 5% to investors. It will also provide Prodrive with enough clean energy to save 5,600 tonnes of CO2 over the lifetime of the 20-year project alongside discounted electricity at no cost to the business.

David Richard, chairman of Prodrive, said: “As we are developing the next generation of automotive electric and hybrid systems here in Banbury, it was very obvious that we should use our roof space to generate clean energy for the building.

“The scheme run by the Low Carbon Hub is an excellent way to reduce our carbon footprint, lower our energy bills, while also generating significant funds to re-invest in further schemes within the local community.”

The size of the project means that the installation will result in significant revenues for Low Carbon Hub, with just a third of the income from electricity generation, export and the feed-in tariff needed to cover the cost of installation and maintenance.

Another third will be used to pay back investors while the final amount will go into the Low Carbon Hub’s community benefit fund. It is thought this will add £240,000 over the 20 years of the fund, which combined with the social enterprise’s other projects is projected to reach £3.5 million over this time.

According to Low Carbon Hub’s Community Energy Manifesto this £3.5 million fund will be used to carry out further renewable energy installations in Oxfordshire as well as demand reduction and efficiency projects, and innovation pilots.

“Starting with a wave of community-benefit solar PV and hydro schemes, Low Carbon Hub’s ambition is for the whole of Oxfordshire to be powered by an interconnected series of smart micro-grids, centred around multiple, small-scale renewable energy projects.”
Taken from the Low Carbon Hub Community Energy Manifesto

Barbara Hammond, chief executive of Low Carbon Hub, said: “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. 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.”

Lisa Ashford, chief executive of Ethex, the not-for-profit online investment platform, added: "Non-traditional investment products like community energy projects offer an alternative opportunity in this climate [of lower interest rates]. With the benefit of returns forecasted from 5%, much higher than many savings accounts, UK-based community energy share and bond offers could offer a relatively safe haven in a stormy environment."