Solar power for Maidenhead’s schools and community buildings

Community benefit society MaidEnergy has launched its second community share offer, aiming to provide clean, renewable energy for the local community. The offer follows on from the society’s...

Community benefit society MaidEnergy has launched its second community share offer, aiming to provide clean, renewable energy for the local community.

The offer follows on from the society’s first successful solar panel installation at Norden Farm Arts Centre in Maidenhead, which began producing electricity in December 2015. The offer raised almost £130,000, with enough left over to begin funding this second project.

But that amount needs topping up. The new offer aims to raise £75,000 for a further 360 solar panels on local schools and community buildings in Maidenhead, Windsor, Egham, Staines and the surrounding area. If less than £75,000 is raised, the amount invested will still be put towards funding at least some of the planned panels.

Powering up for the 2016 Community Energy Fortnight

Nicola Davidson, co-director at MaidEnergy, said: “Since January, our first installation at Norden Farm has already generated 14,385kW, which is a great performance. What’s great about solar energy generation on community buildings is that people start to see it as the norm and the community, not private householders, gets to benefit from energy savings.”

MaidEnergy Co-op
MaidEnergy Co-op

Once panels are installed at MaidEnergy sites, the society will provide electricity to the school or arts centre at a reduced price. Any surplus energy is sold to the National Grid, although that is likely to be a small amount as the preference is for the energy to be used mostly onsite. The income from sales pays out a dividend to investors, covers the maintenance costs and builds a fund for investment in the local community.

Michael Beaven, also co-director at the society, said: “The government has been cutting back support for renewable energy. So you get tax breaks for investing in fracking but you don’t get tax breaks for investing in renewable energy.

“Community energy is one way to show that people are really concerned about climate change and taking practical action. Investing in renewable energy like at MaidCoop means you are investing in something that can actually be used.

Installing the panels at Norden Farm
Installing the panels at Norden Farm

“It also means that people are getting a return which is pretty predictable – we know how much energy we’re going to generate. Although it’s not guaranteed in the same way as putting money in the bank – if you do that you’re going to get about 2%, give or take – with us you’re looking at 4-5% over a 20 year period. As well as that, you’re making a difference in the world for yourselves, your children and your grandchildren.”

The minimum investment is £250 and the maximum is £20,000. The annual interest rate averages out at 4.3% and is capped at 5%.

The society formed in 2010. It has secured commitment for six sites with the Feed-in Tariff, which will provide a higher income if completed in the next twelve months, before the Feed-in Tariff rate drops.

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