Gen Community, is a community benefit society, which creates social impact through community energy projects. We operate throughout the UK but design and operate our projects to create maximum local benefit.
As part of an innovative relationship with Southern Staffordshire Community Energy (SSCE), we have developed a share offer (Staffordshire Sunny Schools) to fund the UK’s largest community solar schools project. With a total capacity of 1MWp the project will see 25 schools benefitting from solar PV, forecasted to save over £1.8m in electricity bills. The scheme will enable the schools to redistribute the savings to further improve facilities and children's learning experiences. At a time when public services are still feeling the fallout from the budget cuts over the last few years this project clearly shows how local and wider communities can work together to support and improve public facilities.
In addition, the project has wider educational aims to fit in with the school curriculum, which is being delivered through a curriculum approved education package – Sunny Schools. The Sunny Schools program gives teachers the tools to engage children across a range of subjects around climate change, renewable energy and sustainability. The initiative will have a lasting impact on the children’s lives and the wider community, as they grew up in an increasingly energy fragile society.
The project generates a community fund, distributed through SSCE. One of the aims is to train the premises managers of the schools semi-annually on energy efficiencies, awareness and behaviours. The community fund will also finance the deployment of the solar learning tool, synced with on site generation, and enable other community energy initiatives to be supported. The schools are incentivised to export as much solar generated power as possible, as this increases the community fund. When the power is exported to Co-operative Energy - the FiT license supplier to the schools - mutual ownership of energy generation and supply is a very strong message of energy independence Gen Community are keen to support. Gen Community is also working closely with SSCE in developing a second local authority project. Co-operation across communities is one of the most powerful and useful tools we have and I look forward to seeing many more community assets being developed across the UK as we help tackle our underfunded infrastructure and social services.
The project is being funded through a community share offer, which closes on the 30th April 2014 and has received £200,000 loan through Pureleapfrog, the low carbon investment charity. The minimum threshold has been reached but the offer is still open. An independent review of the project can be found on Ethex – the not for profit investment platform. Returns forecasted at 6.9% IRR (EIS approved – 10.48% IRR).