One of the first projects from the co-operative will be the Eden Court Medical Practice Birmingham, which will host a 30kWp solar array and EV charging. Image: Big Solar Co-op.

Big Solar Co-op has reached a key milestone by attaining its minimum investment target of £600,000 to proceed with its first solar installations.

The co-operative was incubated by community renewables firm Sharenergy and offers a nationwide model for developing community-owned rooftop solar projects. It outlined its intention to raise £1.2 million by December earlier this year.

Having achieved the minimum fundraising target, orders have now been placed for solar panels for the first three projects in the Big Solar Co-op pipeline.

This includes 300kWp on a food-processing plant in Tenbury Wells, 120kWp on a farm machinery manufacturer in Ludlow and 30kWp on a doctors’ surgery in Birmingham, which additionally includes electric vehicle (EV) charging powered by the solar array.

“Putting solar on rooftops should be a no-brainer when it comes to giving commercial large energy users independence both from spiralling costs and carbon emissions. But there are hundreds of thousands of potentially suitable buildings which still do not have solar PV,” said Jon Hallé, co-founder of Big Solar Co-op.

“Since launching in the summer energy prices have continued to skyrocket. The energy price cap will offer some relief for domestic consumers, but for commercial and large community energy users there will only be a brief respite. We can offer them lower energy costs and carbon savings at zero upfront cost.

“We are really pleased that so many people have made an ethical choice to invest with us. We can all make it happen together and make a difference to climate change.”

During its first phase, Big Solar Co-op aims to install 100MW of community and commercial solar rooftops across the UK by 2030.

The co-operative aims to overcome the issues some localised community energy groups have faced since the removal of the feed-in tariff (FiT) subsidy in 2019, it said.

Despite the end of FiTs and criticism that the potential of community energy has been ignored by the government, the commercial rooftop space in the UK has steadily increased in the past three years with monthly installs passing 30MW.

Big Solar will focus its resources on feasibility studies, solar array designs and legal agreements, allowing local groups to focus on locating suitable rooftop sites and using their specialist skills where needed and at scale.