Robert Rabinowitz of social investment charity Pure Leapfrog explains the benefits of the Chase Community Solar scheme for investors, local people and the environment at the launch in November at Cannock Chase Council House.
Claimed to be the first community energy scheme of its type in the UK, Chase Community Solar was officially launched on 4 November 2014 at Cannock Chase Council House. It enabled people to invest from £100 to £100,000 in community shares to finance the installation of solar panels on properties owned by Cannock Chase Council.
Target reached: share offer closes
The share offer proved popular, attracting interest from investors overseas as well as in the UK, and by early February 2015 had reached its target of £750,000. The share offer then closed.
Returns of around 7% are anticipated over the 20-year life of the scheme, with revenues from the feed-in tariff paid by the electricity supplier. And taxpayers could be eligible for up to 50% tax relief on their investment. Moreover, council tenants will benefit from the free electricity generated by the panels on their property. Any surplus cash will be put in a community fund, potentially worth up to £6000 per year, and if fully realised, the scheme will save over 400 tonnes of CO2 annually.
Council homes to get solar electricity
The scheme is run by a Community Benefit Society registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. Speaking at the launch, Board member Mike Kinghan described how the project is the first UK scheme to use a community share issue to fund solar panels on council house roofs, and is potentially the biggest community energy project in the Midlands to date. He reported that around £35,000 of finance had already been raised for the development phase, and the target was initially to raise an additional £370,000 from the share issue. Social investment charity Pure Leapfrog are to provide a further £130,000 as a low-interest loan.
Councillor Frank Allen, Cabinet Member for Housing, looking forward to cutting electric bills for Council tenants by the installation of solar panels.
The successful share issue means that work started in April on installing panels on the first of a possible 300 homes, in this the second most deprived area of Staffordshire. The maximum number of suitable properties available is 400, which would require capital of around £1.25 million. Keep up to date with the project's progress on Twitter @chasesolar, or via the Chase Community Solar website.