Against a backdrop of rising concern over soaring fuel costs and climate change Preston Solar Action is keen to see the creation of a community solar energy scheme in the city.
It has arranged an online webinar to be held next week on such schemes and hopes local organisations will give their backing - and permit use of their roofs – for such a project.
The Preston Solar Action initiative is a joint collaboration between Preston Cooperative Development Network and Climate Action Preston.
A leaflet advertising the free webinar, which is on Wednesday April 6 from 7pm-8pm, advises: “We’ll give examples of similar projects in the UK and answer all your questions. The event will look at the process including finding suitable roofs, approaching organisations interested in installing solar panels on their buildings, and if there’s enough interest and roofs, we can get the project off the ground in Preston. We’re at the beginning of this journey. “
Organisers say it could be part “of the new way of doing business in Preston”.
The leaflet spells out the uncertainty around future fuel charges and points out many communities across the UK have already invested in community-owned energy generation to reduce carbon emissions and also, in some cases, to help reduce local fuel poverty.
Speakers will be Kate Gilmartin, community energy investment lead at Lancashire County Council and Paul Phare, Development Manager at Energy4All, who is a board member of several community energy organisations.
Gareth Nash from Climate Action Preston said: “There’s an opportunity here to create a community energy vehicle. Other areas in the country have set up community energy societies where people invest in wind, water or solar and the electricity is sold to the grid and there’s a community benefit fund which could be used to encourage more climate mitigation measures.”
He continued: “We can collectively gather together and put solar panels on organisations’ roofs, not on individual’s this time. It should result in cheaper electricity for the organisations. This has been done elsewhere in Bristol and Bath and it’s a well worn path having a community benefit society which raises funds from members of the public and organisations and then invests in community solar.”
He added: “We’ve got a good sense of what works, what has worked and what could work. We’re also in touch with Shareenergy, a national body which does this kind of thing.”
Gareth is also on the board of and secretary of Preston CoOp Development Network.
Meanwhile proposals for a 21 hectare solar energy scheme at Lancaster University were recently given the go-ahead by Lancaster City Council.
The 36,000 panel 16.5MW photovoltaic solar farm will power the Bailrigg campus, generating enough energy to power the equivalent of more than 3,000 homes.
Solar panels have also been fitted at Garstang library recently as part of eco upgrading work.
There are a limited number of places available.