The construction of a community-owned solar farm in Dundee could help reduce fuel poverty and regenerate land that is classed as contaminated and derelict, according to Solar Cities Scotland, a charity trying to mastermind Scotland’s largest community-owned solar farm. 

The group wants to raise enough funds to construct a solar farm that would see all associated income invested into local fuel poverty schemes such as funding energy efficiency measures and renewable generation measures for those homes at most risk. 

Helen Graysham, lead officer from Solar Cities Scotland, will talk at Dundee University next week to explain the charity’s proposed project. “A medium-scale site would be two acres with the potential to generate 500kW of energy, enough to power 170 homes,” said Graysham. “We would be looking to develop on derelict or contaminated land, and several potential sites across the city have been identified, but obviously we also need to demonstrate the economic, ecological and social benefits as well as attracting the required funding.”

Graysham is hopeful that a local customer will come forward and purchase the electricity generated from the solar farm to help bolster the project’s income. More income for the charity means more money to help tackle fuel poverty. “There is very little of this type of activity in urban areas but great need due to Dundee’s fuel poverty profile,” said Graysham. “Efficiencies and technological improvements have been made, which is great in terms of reducing emissions but their effectiveness in tackling fuel poverty has been diminished by rising prices. We are seeing that no matter what you do you are at the mercy of the markets so maybe it’s time to start generating our own power.”

As a result of grid constraints and increased competition, the traditional solar hotbeds of the South of England have become over saturated, with developers heading increasingly to the north of the UK to develop solar farms. Graysham explains why Scotland is a good place to develop solar farms, she said: “The East Coast of Scotland is the best place to develop solar projects due to the number of hours of sunshine and Dundee is well placed to take advantage of this as Scotland’s sunniest city.”

Coupled with the dramatic cost reduction of PV over the last few years, more and more markets have become viable. Graysham explained: “The cost of solar PV panels has fallen dramatically in recent years and the indications are this will continue to come down. The UK is now the fourth largest market for solar power in the world and, anecdotally, we are hearing that existing large-scale PV solar farms are outperforming expectations and this is something we are seeking confirmation of as we make the case for this development.”

Graysham notes that the project is still at an “exploratory stage” and that it will continue to collect data in order to make the business case for the development. 

Community-ownership models are set to be one of the major talking points at this year’s Solar Energy UK show at the NEC, Birmingham. The event will be hosting a Democratisation of energy: Local projects and ownership models session in the Solar Business Seminar Theatre on Tuesday 14 October at 15:30.

Register for your free Solar Energy UK ticket here.