Cornish sustainable energy charity Community Energy Plus has launched a new scheme that will see community buildings, schools, churches, charities and farm buildings generate their own renewable energy – for free. After securing an investment package of £20 million from local photovoltaics installers, the Solar Communities 2011 programme will encourage those who cannot afford the upfront cost of solar to take the plunge.

Eligible buildings taking up the offer will be able to take advantage of free electricity generated by the systems ranging in size from 2kW to 50kW, but unlike other rent-a-roof schemes will also receive an income from any electricity not used within the building that is exported to the National Grid. The installation companies pledging investment for the scheme will take the generation tariff payments.

With the maximum size of 50kW systems on offer, eligible buildings could save up to £7,000 a year on their electricity bills by using all of the energy as it is generated, or receive an income of up to £2,400 a year for exporting all of the electricity produced.

Size of system

Amount of electricity generated per year

All electricity produced is used – savings on energy bills per year*

None of electricity generated is used – export income retained*

5 kW

5,000 kWh



10 kW

10,000 kWh



15 kW

15,000 kWh



20 kW

20,000 kWh



25 kW

25,000 kWh



30 kW

30,000 kWh



35 kW

35,000 kWh



40 kW

40,000 kWh



45 kW

45,000 kWh



50 kW

50,000 kWh



*These prices do not account for inflation and Retail Price Index rises or future electricity cost increases. Export prices are based on Good Energy's current rate of 4.8p per kW.

So far, £20 million in investment has been pledged by Clean Earth Energy, Plug Into The Sun, Solar Solutions and Solen Energy UK. Community Energy Plus will now work to secure more than 300 sites for the offer before the deadline of the 1st April 2012, when the feed-in tariff review will go through.

Neil Farrington, Sustainable Energy Projects Manager at Community Energy Plus said, “We’ve developed this scheme in response to the challenge that many non-commercial organisations face when looking to get their own renewable energy projects off the ground. 

Many lack the upfront investment to buy a system outright but are also wary of the limitations of ‘rent a roof’ offers.  At a time when grant funding for such initiatives has greatly reduced and energy bills are continually rising, this offer provides a fantastic but limited-time opportunity for community buildings to secure multiple benefits of the renewable energy revolution.” 

Handling the initial enquiries and working as an impartial intermediary and advisor, Community Energy Plus will use its expertise of working with community projects to demystify the process of embarking on renewable energy projects for organisations with little experience in the field. 

The charity will take a one-off fee from the installation companies in order to cover its costs. As a registered charity and Social Enterprise Mark holder, income generated by this project will help support the charity’s objectives of supporting projects to reduce CO2 emissions and fight fuel poverty in Cornwall.

The lease contracts with the installers will be for a fixed term of 25 years, with ownership of the equipment passing to the building at the end of the contract, after which the technology is expected to still be 80% efficient.