The Eden Project has become home to yet another ground-breaking project, installing the UK’s first employee-owned renewable energy installation.

Ebico, the UK’s only not-for-profit electricity supplier, financed the installation of 200 solar panels across a selection of Eden’s storage buildings. Eden employees have been invited to buy shares in the installation. The shares, which start at £200, offer shareholders a proportion of the feed-in tariff income over the next 25 years. As a result of this innovative solution, Ebico will see its initial investment returned and employees are expected to enjoy returns of over 10 percent per year.

One of the most common criticisms levelled at the feed-in tariff is that it the funding gathered is disproportionately dispersed amongst society, as only the more affluent are capable of the initial investment in renewable technologies, such as solar PV. The aim of the solar project at Eden was to demonstrate that the FiT scheme can be used to directly engage those not capable of purchasing a system themselves and receive the benefit of financial incentives linked to micro-generation.

The 50kWp array installed at Eden is expected to generate around 47,000kWh per year, helping Eden employees save around 25 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere every year.

Chris Goodall, who helped structure the innovative deal, said: “Today, the costs of the subsidies for renewable energy are borne by everybody but the benefits are largely flowing to the large electricity companies and richer householders.

“Larger scale community energy installations, such as the one at Eden, can achieve rapid growth of low carbon energy sources and also remove the regressive element in the feed-in tariffs.”

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is currently consulting over FiT support for community schemes. In its consultation document DECC recognises that: “Single installation community projects are generally developed over a longer timescale than commercial projects because they are often run by part-timers and volunteers, and funding is not always as readily available as for commercial schemes.”

Due to this, DECC is considering ‘fixing’ FiT rates for community schemes for a longer period. DECC is accepting responses to its suggestions until April 26. Online responses to the consultation can be submitted here.