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Our process

How we go from finding a potential host site for rooftop solar PV to installing and managing the solar array.

Site finding

We use a range of methods:

  • Solar scope mapping – studying areas to find good solar sites meeting key criteria such as size of buildings, type of roofs, grid connections etc
  • Self-referral – building owners and energy users contact us asking whether their site is suitable
  • Local volunteers – our network of solar activists suggest and analyse sites in their local area

Indicative design

We use in house tools and expertise to analyse a potential site and create an indicative design. Our remote-working volunteers are trained to use of this online software and supported by both experienced volunteers and paid staff.

Approach to host site

Once we have an indicative design, we take it to the host site.  With their help we can refine our design and incorporate data about their energy use.

Outline proposal

Next we put together a detailed outline proposal for the host site which covers:

  • Financial and carbon analysis including savings for host site
  • Refined design of solar installation
  • Energy matching agains their energy usage patterns
  • Details of legal agreements
  • An outline timescale

If the host site owner wishes to continue, we ask them to sign an exclusivity agreement and we move forward to the final design and installation phase.

Design and installation

Our in-house specialist – Chris Rigby prepares a final detailed design and a schedule of works. We do background work to establish:

  • Grid connection agreements
  • Land registry searches and planning issues

For a straightforward site this process takes about 6 months to get to installation. The Big Solar Co-op uses carefully vetted installers and will only use panels that meet our requirements for ethical sourcing.

The solar installation is financed via a community share offer.

Operation and maintenance

The solar array will be owned and operated by the Big Solar Co-op. We manage all service and maintenance, cleaning, monitoring and optimisation of panels and associated equipment such as inverters and cabling.

The site owner (or other connected energy user) will be billed for all the solar energy they use. The remaining energy is exported to the grid. Big Solar Co-op manages the export of energy and all regulatory issues with Ofgem and other relevant bodies. The site owner will have a named contact within Big Solar Co-op to deal with any site issues – and will schedule reviews to see if we can improve the installation or add enhancements such as energy storage, vehicle charging etc.