A community energy scheme is one step closer to offering public buildings in Oldham cheap, clean energy after Renewable Energy 4 Business was selected to fit almost 2,000 solar panels to a number of council-owned community buildings and schools in the area.

Oldham Community Power (OCP) was formed to fund the installation of the panels via a community share offer. Residents will be able to buy shares in solar systems planned for around 14 public buildings when the offer is launched in the next few weeks.

OCP is seeking to raise up to £750,000 to fund the scheme, which is almost exclusively targeting buildings with high energy usage. These will enter into discounted power purchase agreements with the group in exchange for low cost, green energy.

In addition, the installations will add to the council’s environmental credentials as they are expected to save an estimated 200 tonnes of carbon.

The partnership will offer schools, colleges, universities and community groups the chance to be involved at every stage of the project, from initial conception to installation, as well as advice on delivering ongoing energy savings.

Alan Price, one of the founding directors of OCP, said: “At last something practical is being done to involve schools and communities in renewable energy and climate change.

“Our shared vision, first and foremost, is for Oldham residents to become members of a society; to then enable them to reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions; to generate an income from electricity sales that can be invested back into community projects; and – most excitingly of all – to educate people on how to reduce their own energy usage at home.”

Work is currently anticipated to start in around ten weeks, with the panels expected to be able to deliver electricity before the end of the summer.

Chris Acton, sales director of Renewable Energy 4 Business, said: “We are delighted to be the installer of choice for OCP. Our winning tender reflects our industry-wide reputation for successfully delivering large scale solar PV projects, and on our commitment to empowering communities to take ownership of energy efficiency.”

OCP and Renewable Energy 4 Business will work with the Sharenergy cooperative, which will provide technical and project management support, as well as Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council and voluntary group, Action Together.

Leila Sharland, Sharenergy’s community renewables adviser, said: “It is great to be able to offer everyone the chance to be a part-owner of local solar panels, which are also helping to reduce the cost of energy to their local schools and community buildings. Everyone is a winner.

“Oldham can be the latest to join the club of communities with greater ownership of their energy generation.”

The upcoming launch of the community bond offer is the latest project in Oldham to support solar deployment in the town. Earlier this year the council completed a 110kW solar PV installation on the roof of Tommyfield Market Hall which is expected to save around £9,000 in annual electricity costs.

The council says its efforts have been sparked by the global trend towards a low carbon economy, but are also intended to secure revenue and savings to offset budget cuts imposed by central government.