Are you part of an existing community energy group or climate-focused group? Would you like to set up a new group locally? Either way the Big Solar Co-op is designed to help you make more solar happen in your area.
New groups and lone wolves
If you want to get some new co-operatively owned solar built locally, you don’t necessarily need to start a group at all – you can just join us and start hunting for solar sites. Several of our activists work outside of any group. Still, it can be a bit easier if you hunt together – you can benefit from other people’s local knowledge and connections and enjoy working together in person. Our aim is that by joining Big Solar Co-op you get everything you need to get going – you don’t need to set up a new formal organisation at all. If you are not focused on your local area but want to see more solar built in general, we’d be very happy to hear from you. A lot of the good sites are part of regional or nationwide chains and if you have ideas of how to contact them or good contacts we can help you approach them. We’ve also got lots of ways in which you can help if site-finding is not your thing – we need help to spread the word, to build new software tools, or to help co-ordinate our activities. To get started see our volunteer page.
Existing community solar groups
There are lots of solar groups across the UK. Some are thriving, but many are struggling to keep developing new sites. At Sharenergy we helped to develop some of the UK’s first solar co-ops, some of which have not been able to expand as first tax reliefs and then subsidies were reduced and then taken away entirely. We can help get your group working again. Either you can join as individuals or your group can host a node of Big Solar Co-op. This means that as local activists you get access to:
- A business model that works for a wide variety of host sites (including commercial sites)
- Training courses covering practical skills like solar design, finding and approaching sites, legal agreements
- Support to fund a part-time local co-ordinator post
- A network of other activists across the UK to help you
Our approach involves a shift in culture for some groups. Our focus is on combating the climate crisis rather than local ownership. But we are completely rooted in co-operative values and everything we do is powered and owned by volunteers. We can achieve a lot more when we work together.
Climate Action groups, Transition groups
You don’t need to be a community energy group to add solar superpowers to what you do locally. We’re keen to work with other types of climate action group who would like to add another string to their bow.
A word on community funds
In the era of Feed-in Tariffs it was quite common for community groups to install renewable energy with a view to making a surplus for wider community projects. That’s now really hard to do with rooftop solar, and it’s not a focus of the Big Solar Co-op. If we made a significant surplus, we would aim to re-invest it in building more solar. That doesn’t mean we don’t create community benefit. We provide cheaper electricity to community buildings and small businesses, we provide local jobs and we help local groups to become more capable and effective. Community energy is about a lot more than solar. Fuel poverty, energy efficiency, decarbonisation of heat and transport are extremely important, and the groups we work with are often heavily involved in these issues. But Big Solar Co-op just does one thing – more solar!
A volunteer-led movement
We are a proudly volunteer-led co-operative. Big Solar Co-op has a unique structure in that it is owned by its activists, who are mostly volunteers. The community energy movement has always been powered by volunteers – people who create and develop local connections, who go the extra mile and who are in it for the long haul. Our aim is to support those volunteers better and value their time more keenly. Somebody who understands that we are in a climate crisis and is willing to put in the time to do something about it is a key resource for our entire species! They deserve to know that their efforts are having tangible impact. Not everything can be done by volunteers. We have a paid core staff, we pay contractors for legal and installation work and we’re funding regional paid co-ordinators too. But we’re always looking to expand the scope of what volunteers can achieve. Nothing is off bounds!