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Community-owned solar roof installed on Minchinhampton school

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A pioneering project to install a solar roof on Minchinhampton Primary Academy was completed this month, all funded a local community share scheme.

The new solar energy system will generate around 42,000 kWh per year, reducing the school’s carbon footprint by around 8 tons annually and knocking hundreds off its electricity bills. Half the energy produced will be used by the school with the rest supplying the local grid.

The upfront costs of the installation were met through a community share sale organised by Gloucester Community Energy Co-operative (GCEC), which is leasing the school’s roof space from the Diocese of Gloucester Academies Trust. The share scheme offered local people the chance to invest between £250-£10,000 in the project and receive 2.5% per year interest. The investment will be repaid over 25 years through the sale of electricity, after which point the school will enjoy free energy for the lifetime of the system.

The project used roof-integrated solar panels because the school’s roof structure was not strong enough to support traditional panels on top of its existing slates. Installed by solar energy specialist Solarsense, it is one of the largest ever deployments of this kind of system which is more commonly used on new build houses. Using an in-roof system ensured a higher quality aesthetic finish than traditional panels and meant that the original slates could be removed and sold.

Chair of GCEC, Peter Boait, said: “Getting to Net Zero requires everyone to act now to protect a future for our children. We cannot rely on government to do it all! This project is a great example of what is possible when the community works together – we’ve been able to overcome financial and technical barriers to bring about a solution that is better for the planet and better for the school.”

Nick Moss, Head of Minchinhampton Primary Academy, said: “We are absolutely delighted with our new solar roof! It’s going to allow us to reduce our carbon footprint, save money on our bills and help teach the children about green energy, while also providing a good return for investors. The project has been several years in the planning and its fantastic to see it all take shape – I’d like to thank everyone who has got behind us to make it possible.”

Stephen Barrett, Managing Director of Solarsense said: “It’s a real pleasure to be involved in such a fantastic community project. Our vision is to change forever the way that UK organisations are powered – switching large community buildings to solar energy makes total sense from both a financial and environmental point of view. I’m really proud of the way the team has worked to overcome technical challenges on this project and carry out the installation while working safely around the normal operations of the school. The new roof is looking fantastic and will provide green energy for many years into the future.”

The new system includes a monitoring panel in the foyer of the school which enables teachers to use the solar roof as an educational asset for learning about green energy generation.

It is expected that the system will substantially reduce the school’s electricity bills and could provide as much as half of the building’s electricity free of charge once the community investment is repaid.

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