The first solar co-operative in Wales is installing its biggest raft of photovoltaics yet. Egni Cooperative, which brings solar energy to community-owned buildings, is putting 200 solar panels on the roof at Ysgol Y Bedol, a primary school in Garnant, Carmanthenshire.
Egni, Welsh for energy, already has three sites up and running in the valleys of South Wales. Glynneath Training Centre, which includes a day nursery, a cafe and an art centre, has a 21kw installation, while community centre the Dove Workshop has a 14kw installation. Awel Aman Tawe, a community renewable energy charity, has a 4kw installation, and the installation at Ysgol y Bedol adds another 50kw.
Egni will next turn its attention to another school, Ysgol Brynaman, which will host a 30kw installation. Each site will be fitted with microinverters, panels of American design which are more efficient than traditional string or central inverters.
The community buildings which host the panels will benefit from free energy, collectively saving an estimated £6,000 – £8,000 per year on their energy bills.
A bilingual share offer attracted 96 shareholder members, who together invested £171,000; some 83% of shareholders are from Wales. The community buildings are also members, with one share each.
Director of Egni, Dan McCallum, said: “Most of the investment came from Wales. We come from a deprived area, so there’s not the cash available, although people were supportive. There’s not a great tradition of co-ops anymore. If we did another share offer there would be more confidence.”
He added that Egni benefitted from mentoring from fellow co-op Share Energy, funded by Renew Wales, a scheme which promotes skills sharing between community practitioners.
“They really helped us with financial modelling,” he said. “It gave us the confidence to produce our share offer.”