Northern Ireland’s only solar energy co-operative has launched a second community share offer after high demand.
NICE (Northern Ireland Community Energy) is aiming to raise £130,000 – enough to install solar panels free of charge for up to ten charitable and community organisations. So far almost 40 organisations have expressed an interest in the project, which could halve their electricity bills.
The co-operative installs the panels and the electricity generated is available for use in that community building at a considerably reduced rate. Surplus energy is sold to the national grid with any profits reinvested in the community, including a fund aimed at tackling fuel poverty in Northern Ireland.
The initial share offer, launched last year, raised £150,000 enabling the co-op to fit panels for 13 organisations. One of them was Mornington Community project, a community space in Belfast.
Heather Carey, board member of the Mornington Community project, said: “As Mornington continues to grow and expand, the benefits of reduced energy costs mean the organisation is able to save and continue to invest in the people of the Lower Ormeau now and for years to come.”
The community shares are priced at £1 each. There is a minimum purchase of 250 shares and maximum of 20,000. Investors can expect a return of around 4%. Before the new share offer had even launched on 25 April, NICE had received pledges totalling around £20,000.
We are all unpaid volunteers with a belief in renewable forms of energy. Northern Ireland is very far behind the UK and Europe
NICE director Karen Arbuckle said that in the year since its launch, the co-operative had made a big impact.
“Because we were able to achieve so much last year it has given us the incentive to go ahead with another project,” she said. “There is huge demand for solar panels but unfortunately we won’t be able to facilitate everybody.
“We are all unpaid volunteers with a belief in renewable forms of energy. Northern Ireland is very far behind the UK and Europe where co-operatives like NICE are more common. We are only the second renewable energy co-operative in Northern Ireland along with Drumlin Wind Energy.
“Our work is all about empowering communities to become economically more sustainable while reducing energy costs and consumption to help stop climate change. We would like Northern Ireland to have more co-operative initiatives like ours and make renewables the norm. There is no reason why it can’t be the case here.”
- You can find more information on the project and how to invest at www.nicommunityenergy.org