Power to the people

Reporter: Richard Hooton
Date published: 18 May 2016

OLDHAMERS can buy shares in a large-scale solar energy scheme which will see panels fitted to council-owned community buildings and schools as part of a carbon-reducing green scheme.

Organisers say it gives locals the opportunity to invest in something which will generate income for community projects while saving Oldham an estimated 200 tonnes of carbon.

Specialist contractor Renewable Energy 4 Business has been officially appointed to complete the installation programme. It will fit nearly 2,000 solar panels to around 14 individual buildings over a two-month period.

“We are delighted to be the installer of choice for Oldham Community Power,” said Chris Acton, sales director of Renewable Energy 4 Business.

“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,”

Oldham Community Power (OCP) ­— a community benefit society registered with the Financial Conduct Authority ­— has been formed to fund the installation of the panels via a community share offer.

The founding directors are all local environmental activists ­— Alan Price, Bill Edwards and Colin Salt.

Mr Price 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 exciting of all ­— to educate people on how to reduce their own energy usage at home.”

Working in partnership with OCP and Renewable Energy 4 Business will be Leila Sharland, of the co-operative Sharenergy ­— providing technical and project management support; Andy Hunt, of Oldham Council ­— providing school liaison and access to the roofs; and community liaison lead Sharon McGladdery, of Action Together.

Leila Sharland, Sharenergy’s Community Renewables adviser, said: “Many people are daunted by the prospect of paying for solar panels on their own homes. 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.”

Work is currently anticipated to start in around 10 weeks, with the panels being ready to deliver electricity before the end of the summer holidays.

To ensure that the local community’s best interests stay at the heart of the project, the partnership will offer schools, colleges, universities and community groups the chance to be involved at every stage, from initial conception to installation, as well as advice on delivering ongoing energy savings.

“There is a lot of work to be done in the next few weeks but I am sure we can count on local involvement in running awareness-raising events to support the share offer,” added Mr Price. “We would like to hear from you if you would like to volunteer to help or if you are interested in becoming a member of OCP and investing in the society.

“Please email OCP director Bill Edwards at bill.edwards1@btinternet.com or call Sharenergy on 01743-277 119 and we will add you to the mailing list and get back to you as soon as possible.”

Renewable Energy 4 Business is located in Warrington and has more than 16 years’ collective experience of delivering energy saving and renewable energy solutions to the commercial, construction, public and private sectors nationwide ­— including the NHS, Ministry of Defence and local authorities.

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