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Bristol Energy Cooperative Celebrates £10m Solar Success

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Bristol Energy Cooperative celebrates £10m solar success

• Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) celebrates reaching over £10m in its ambitious solar fund-raise.

• This amount has funded the construction of a new solar farm in Bristol, the taking ownership of a new solar farm in Somerset and the ongoing installation of community rooftop solar arrays.


• BEC has achieved this significant sum since November 2015 through a share and bond offer against a backdrop of Government changes to the energy sector.

• BEC membership has more than doubled demonstrating the growing momentum to make the transition to clean energy.

• It is anticipated that around £70,000 each year will go into a fund for local community projects for the 25 years of the projects.

Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) has celebrated reaching the powerful sum of £10 million in its fund-raising campaign to offer the city and surrounding area a brighter, cleaner energy future.


BEC’s £10m fund-raise will not only reduce carbon emissions, but also leave a legacy of social benefits with all the profits from BEC’s solar projects being invested back into the community. Around £70,000 will be available for local community projects each year for the 25 years of the solar projects.

The money raised since November 2015 through a share offer and bond offer is already working for the community’s benefit with £3.5m raised through crowdfunding. BEC has built and switched-on a new 4.2 MWp solar farm at Lawrence Weston, financed an operating 4.6 MWp solar farm in Somerset and is installing solar panels on community roofs across Bristol.

Bristol Energy Cooperative has already installed solar panels on Coniston Community Centre, Easton Community Centre and Brentry and Henbury Children’s Centre, which will help these organisations reduce their energy bills and carbon footprint. Around 10 additional community roofs in the Bristol region, including the Architecture Centre and Wick’s Sports Centre, are lined up to join this community solar initiative.

Altogether BEC’s new installations will generate enough energy to power 2,270 average UK homes; this is equivalent to 9,268 kWp of solar PV capacity, generating an average of 9,300 MWh of electricity each year.

Chris Speller, co-director of BEC said: “We’re proud to announce that our fund-raise has reached over £10m enabling the funding of all the solar projects in this phase of expansion. The BEC Board of Directors would like to thank our growing community of investors and supporters who have helped us reach this significant target. “Our success demonstrates growing momentum to generate and control energy at a local level. Investing in community energy is an accessible way to make a personal positive impact on climate change, improve the local sense of community and get a good rate of return on savings. We’re determined to build on this strong foundation and continue to work towards Bristol’s zero carbon targets, whilst extending participation in community energy locally and beyond.”

People-powered energy BEC’s membership has more than doubled to 425 members, who invested in its share offer, with 800 investors in the bond and share offer in 21 total. This clearly illustrates the drive to make the transition to renewables as an alternative way to power cities and communities.

Since beginning this £10m fund-raise, BEC has faced many additional challenges, including changes to Government policy on community energy as well as the economic uncertainty around Brexit. The overwhelming success of the co-op’s fund-raise in this context shows that there is a strong desire to move towards alternative energy generation and confidence in community energy investment with its financial, social and environmental benefits.

This fund-raising campaign also demonstrates the power of collaboration in the transition to cleaner energy. As well as developing partnerships with local community groups, including regeneration organisation, Ambition Lawrence Weston, BEC has partnered with Mongoose Energy, the UK’s leading community energy business, and Ethex, positive investment platform, on the share and bond offer. Other partners including, Bristol City Council, Triodos Bank, Social and Sustainable Capital and Close Brothers, have provided loan funding for the projects.

Christine Davis, Manager at The Architecture Centre in Bristol, one of the buildings which will benefit from BEC’s community solar, said: “This is a fantastic scheme that really exemplifies the potential of the ‘triple bottom line’ approach – bringing social, environmental and financial benefits. Investing in this scheme will enable small charities and community organisations like us to invest in something we could not otherwise contemplate – and will have a lasting positive impact on our organisation, the people we work with, and the planet.

“As an independent not-for profit-organisation we would reinvest money saved in our activities – for example helping us to reach more young people through inspirational programmes such as Shape My City which provides life-changing mentoring opportunities and empowers young people to help shape their neighbourhood for the better.”

Find out more about how to get involved with BEC on its website: http://www.bristolenergy.coop

By Carolyn Hair, Oggadoon

This article first appeared in the Guide to Clean Energy

Energy

Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?

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The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.


Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.


The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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Energy

4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy

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Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?


A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.


“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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