Bristol Power Coop: Streets of Power aims to launch a solar pilot project in Lockeaze

Artical from 'This is Bristol' website:

The co-op, called Bristol Power, wants to pilot the project in Lockleaze and if it goes well they would look to save people money across the whole city.

One of the first local people to sign up for the scheme is local vicar Dave Jeal – who wants panels installed on the roof of St James' Church in Romney Avenue in the shape of a cross.

Bristol Power believes people could save up to 40 per cent of the cost of their electricity bills by taking part.

The group has begun sending a mailshot to people in Lockleaze in the hope that 300 of them will sign up for the pilot project. It has been backed by the Government and the city council, which has given £15,000 from its sustainable community energy fund and which is managed by the Centre for Sustainable Energy.

David Saunders, from Bristol Power, told the Post: "We want to offer people the opportunity to join an energy co-operative which would give them the chance of solar panels on their roof and much cheaper annual electricity bills.

"In Bristol there is enough roof space for 700 megawatts of solar power – that's the equivalent of a decent sized power station."

Residents would be able to use the electricity they produce free of charge but they would probably have to buy some electricity during the winter and on dark evenings at a discount price.

They would not have to provide any capital towards the scheme – the panels would be installed free of charge.

Most of the money for the project comes from what is called a "feed-in tariff" – the money received for selling electricity to the National Grid. This money would go to the co-op to pay off the cost of the capital loan to install the panels.

At the moment the money received would be 21p per kWh of electricity – although that looks likely to drop to 16p from July.

As a co-op, Bristol Power does not operate on the same basis as a private company. It is allowed to make a profit but any proceeds have to be re-invested into the scheme.

One of the first local people to sign up for the scheme is local vicar Dave Jeal – who wants panels installed on the roof of St James' Church in Romney Avenue in the shape of a cross.

Lockleaze was chosen partly because it is classed as a fuel poverty area and most of the houses are a similar design, which cuts down installation costs.

But Mr Saunders, one of the founders of a social enterprise project based at Hamilton House in Stokes Croft being, said if the scheme was a success, then it was hoped to extend it to other areas of the city.

He organised the installation of solar panels on Hamilton House and realised that if it could be done for one landmark building, then there was no reason why it could not work on a much larger scale.

He said solar panel installation has increased dramatically during the past few years – so much so that the Government can no longer afford its subsidy and cut it by 50 per cent in the last Budget.

But solar energy is still profitable because the cost of the panels has gradually dropped and they can be bought much more cheaply with bulk orders.

Bristol Power's installers have created their own co-operative so they can cut down costs and handle a large number of homes in a short period time.

Mr Saunders said that if all of Bristol's homes were installed with solar panels, the cost would be about £1 billion – but they would produce about £80 million worth of electricity a year.

He believes that solar power is catching on in the same way that computers are now a part of our daily lives.

He said: "Only 20 years ago, I was going to conferences in the hope of meeting people who had an e-mail address – now everyone has got a computer."

He said a survey showed that 15 per cent of the world's energy could be harnessed from the sun by 2030 but he believed it was possible to achieve 100 per cent by 2022.

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