Pioneer programme

The Big Solar Co-op is a big project, so we decided to break it down into phases. Our first phase is what we are calling our Pioneer programme.


A small scale working model of the Big Solar Co-op which will deliver new subsidy-free PV solar in 5 locations. We are looking for around 5 local groups who we reckon will develop 5 sites each for a total of 25 sites.


To prove the concept of the Big Solar Co-op subsidy-free community solar model can work across multiple groups and areas.


We want to work with people who are keen to:

  • Look for and develop local solar opportunities
  • Help us to develop the core Big Solar Co-op model
  • Collaborate with us on the development of shared tools
  • Share their experience and expertise as peer mentors or trainers


Across the UK – anywhere that people are keen to work together to put solar on local rooftops. This includes existing groups who have suitable sites which have been stymied by the end of FiTs.

What would success look like?

  • Solar installations in 5 locations generating clean energy
  • Financially viable under zero-subsidy conditions (earns ~4% return for members)
  • Building up resources for the Big Solar Co-op (eg. template legal agreements, online training courses, site finding and assessment tools)
  • Getting momentum behind the project as a whole, building confidence for future members, investors and funders
  • Establish the Big Solar Co-op as a legal entity with a defined governance structure
  • Learn what works and what doesn’t


Our outline timeline is:

Q1 2020:
Identify local leads and work together to start identifying potential sites.

Q2 2020:

  1. Start researching, triaging and logging site details with support from paid interns
  2. Develop an online logging tool, workflow task management system and define processes for wider project
  3. Begin site assessment. This will happen through multiple approaches:
    • Funded feasibility work (ie RCEF-funded in rural areas)
    • Assessment by volunteers using new tools (still in active development but first versions will be available)
    • Assessment by Sharenergy staff (we have limited resource but can assess sites with local activists)

Q3 2020:

  1. Make outline proposals to landowners using business model tools, results of site assessments, and draft legal agreements. Local activists are supported to approach landowners by peer mentors
  2. Work with partners in the renewables sector to create a bespoke, shared, UK-wide GIS mapping tool
  3. First activist training sessions focusing on approaching and signing up landowners
  4. Continue site finding, assessment and training programmes
  5. Recruit for paid Solar Specialist role to provide technical expertise day to day

Q4 2020:

  1. Continue site finding, assessment and training programmes
  2. First sites signed up – detailed design begins

Q1 2021: 

  • Launch initial Pioneer Share offer

Q2 2021:

  • Installation of first sites

What’s not in the Pioneer programme ?

In parallel we are developing other aspects of the wider Big Solar Co-op model which will enable us to expand the types of sites we can build solar on. We anticipate that the full vision will be in place by 2022.

  • New approaches for procuring installation and equipment
  • Innovative tech approaches
  • Extended governance structure
  • Novel share offer methodology
  • Full range of non-geographic groups
  • Emergent tech solutions eg. storage optimisation
  • Exploration of emergent structures eg. Peer to peer energy trading