Work begins on York Social Homes solar scheme

Nearly 800 City of York Council homes will be fitted with free solar arrays as Empower Community and Nationwide Solar have begun fitting the first homes with solar.

The scheme had previously been held up by consequent reviews into the rate of feed-in tariff solar installations receive, especially proposals to limit so-called ‘aggregated’ installs such as community installations. However, the 780 house scheme has been green-lit, with all installations to be fitted prior to the recently-announced August FiT rate degression.

Once fitted, all tenants will be able to freely consume the electricity generated by the solar arrays. Research has shown that a solar installation can help slash domestic electricity bills by as much as 40 percent, representing an important tool for helping tackle rising fuel poverty rates.  

Alex Grayson, Empower Community’s Managing Partner said: “Our mission is to accelerate the transition to sustainable, low carbon local economies and to start with FiT-backed solar PV for social housing makes a lot of sense for all concerned. We’re very happy to be undertaking this initial project with City of York Council and are hopeful that we will be able to build on these first installations under the new Feed-in Tariff regime, both in York and nationally.”

Nationwide Solar Managing Director Russ Cowan adds: “Our experience in fitting large numbers of domestic PV installations has enabled us to produce very efficient supply chain, logistics and delivery management processes and a rapid, non-intrusive customer experience, all necessary ingredients to make a success of the new FiT rules.”

Overall, profits from the scheme will be shared with City of York and the wider York community and the assets will revert to City of York ownership at the end of the 25-year FiT period.

Councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing, City of York Council’s Cabinet member for Health, Housing and Adult Social Services said: “I believe it’s essential that as a responsible landlord we take every opportunity to enable our tenants reduce their carbon footprint and reduce their energy bills. This low-carbon source of sustainable energy will serve to keep tenants comfortable, healthier and better off.”

Grayson concluded: “Last year, Empower Community contracted 22,000 south-facing roofs of social homes and a household name pension fund investor with intention to commit up to £175m. The new FiT terms are obviously considerably tighter, but the combination of landlord, installer and investor experience means the rationale remains to take these programmes to scale nationally.”