London university launches funding scheme for ‘industry first’ community install

A university in London has launched what it claims to be the first community-funded solar project on a higher education establishment in the UK.

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London is seeking to raise £20,000 to finalise the funding of a 114-panel solar install it intends to complete by its pre-accreditation deadline next month.

Those who donate to the fund will receive rewards ranging from water bottles and t-shirts to a solar panel making workshop hosted by Demand Energy Equality.

Meanwhile revenue generated from the installation’s feed-in tariff payments will be split between the general maintenance of the system and a £2,000 annual fund made available to local environmental ventures.

Solar SOAS, the body established in 2014 to manage the project, set up UniSolar Limited to act as a community benefit society to introduce this project, as well as others, to universities across the UK.

The install atop SOAS’ Old Building is intended to be a pilot project with others also in the early planning stages.

Hannah Short, co-founder at Solar SOAS, said the scheme was a “rare opportunity” for interested stakeholders to become “part of a solution”.

“It’s also been created and set up by students, all out of care and concern for the future of the planet. It’s a pretty special thing to be involved with,” she added.

In November last year Solar SOAS was awarded £20,000 from the Urban Community Energy Fund to get its project underway, and it is the remaining cost of the project the organisation is now hoping to raise.

The project has also received praise from Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St. Pancras, who said he was “absolutely thrilled” to see the project happening in his constituency.

Despite being ideally suited to the generation portfolio of solar PV, take-up of the technology on educational establishments has been comparatively underwhelming in the UK owing to lending restrictions placed on schools and a host of other complications.

Prior to her leaving the London Assembly, the Green Party’s Jenny Jones repeatedly campaigned for the capital to stimulate its flagging solar deployment, particularly on schools.

Amy Cameron, director of operations at solar schools charity 10:10, said there was a “huge amount of untapped potential” for solar on university buildings.

“It’s a particularly good opportunity to show that many people, especially the younger generation, are willing to do whatever they can to fight climate change, no matter the state of the political climate,” Cameron added.