How we go from finding a potential host site for rooftop solar PV to installing and managing the solar array.
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
We use in house tools and expertise to analyse a potential site and create an indicative design in OpenSolar. 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 approach the host site with our ideas to see whether they are interested in taking the project forward with us. We can give an idea of how much energy the panels will generate for the host site, saving them money and carbon. At this stage there is no commitment – we just ask the host site to confirm their interest in principle. With their help we can refine our indicative design and incorporate data about their energy use.
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
- Details of legal agreements
- An outline timescale
If the host site owner wishes to continue, we ask them to sign the exclusivity agreement and we move forward to the final design and installation phase. If they decide not to, they can keep our analysis free of charge and we remain open to working with them in future.
Design and installation
Our in-house specialist – Chris Rigby prepares a final detailed design and works with local volunteers to put in place a schedule of works. The Big Solar Co-op then does due diligence:
- Grid connection agreements
- Land registry searches
- Communication with existing energy provider
For a straightforward site this process takes about 6 months to get to installation. The Big Solar Co-op will use vetted, pre-approved installers and will only use panels that meet our requirements for ethical sourcing.
The solar installation is financed via a community share offer with a projected rate of return for investors of 4%.
Operation and maintenance
The solar array will be owned 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.