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Pioneer programme

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


A small scale working model of the Big Solar Co-op which will deliver new subsidy-free PV solar in at least 5 locations. We started out by looking for around 5 groups or organisations who we reckon will develop 5 sites or more each, giving us a minimum of 25 sites to learn from.


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, array design 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


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

Q2 2020:

    • Start researching, triaging and logging site details with support from paid interns
    • Develop an online logging tool, workflow task management system and define processes for wider project
    • Establish social media presence and build network
    • Begin site assessment. This will happen through multiple approaches:
      • Funded feasibility work
      • 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:

    • Make outline proposals to landowners using business model tools and results of site assessments
    • Support local activists to approach landowners with peer expertise and centralised content
    • Begin work on a bespoke, UK-wide GIS mapping tool
    • Continue site finding, assessment and run regular training webinars
    • Start developing a library of training resources for design volunteers
    • Establish outreach presence through remote events

Q4 2020:

    • Continue site finding, assessment and volunteer onboarding programmes
    • Draft and ratify custom template legal agreements
    • Transition paid intern role to Project Officer role
    • Recruit for paid Solar Specialist role to provide technical expertise day to day
    • Research innovative co-operative structures that empower active volunteers

Q1 2021: 

    • First public webinar focusing on finding suitable sites for Big Solar Co-op
    • Continue site finding, assessment and volunteer onboarding programmes
    • Solar Specialist in place and submitting G99 grid applications and detailed design work begins
    • Set up regular ‘ask us anything’ Zoom call – open to anyone on our mailing list
    • Beta test a ‘cookbook’ for UK-wide GIS mapping tool

Q2 2021:

    • Second public webinar focusing on approaching and signing up landowners
    • Finalise and roll out custom template legal agreements
    • Develop custom outline proposal template
    • Continue research into creating a bespoke, shared, UK-wide GIS mapping tool
    • Nurture Big Solar Co-op activist community through Slack workspace
    • Build partnerships with complementary organisations in the community energy sector

Q3 2021:

    • Begin establishing Big Solar Co-op ‘nodes’ across the UK that are led by activists
    • Formalise Big Solar Co-op structure
    • First sites fully signed up, legal agreements in place
    • Develop list of preferred installers and tender process
    • Run a large scale in person event in Birmingham
    • Deliver third public webinar
    • Background checks, structural surveys, site visits
    • Launch initial Pioneer Share offer

Q4 2021:

    • Installation of first sites
    • Deliver fourth public webinar
    • Launch BSC member portal / CRM / site status tracking database
    • Initiate transition from Pioneer Programme to main Big Solar Co-op model

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
    • Plug-in usage features eg. Electric Vehicle charging
    • Emergent tech solutions eg. storage optimisation
    • Exploration of emergent structures eg. Peer to peer energy trading