Legal work under way for two Solar PV3 sites

Legal work under way for two Solar PV3 sites

Confirmation of Ofgem pre-registration at Westbank

Confirmation of Ofgem pre-registration at Westbank

Exeter Community Energy (ECOE) has successfully pre-registered two local community centre sites for new solar PV installations. We are now working on leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) with The Beacon Community Centre and Westbank Healthy Living Centre.

Pre-registration enables this even though the government closed its Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) scheme to new applications on 31 March 2019. Having notified Ofgem of our intention to proceed with these installations we have a year to raise money and then construct the installation. We plan to secure the required finance – likely around £80,000 – through loans from existing members.

Although FITs make the projects viable, a lot of the income comes from selling electricity to these sites. We offer a lower rate than sites otherwise pay for their electricity, which offers them a clear financial benefit. We then use that money to run ECOE and support our community fund.

Hurdles remain
Westbank Healthy Living Centre is ECOE's latest potential solar PV site

Westbank Healthy Living Centre is ECOE’s latest potential solar PV site

We currently plan to install panels rated at 25.65kW peak output at The Beacon Community Centre and 46kW of panels at Westbank. Western Power Distribution (WPD) initially us told that we couldn’t  export all 46kW at Westbank to the grid. This would make the installation less profitable, but it is still viable as Westbank uses lots of electricity in its gym and café. However, we made a more detailed application, and been told we can export the full amount. That offer only stands for 90 days, and we’re halfway through that period, but it’s a promising sign.

We have to sign leases to allow us to install panels on new sites. In legal language any lease or sale of a property enters into is known as a ‘disposition’. Property deeds usually have restrictions on any dispositions. Those restrictions require various permissions. For example, for The Beacon we need permission from the University of Exeter and Devon County Council. For Westbank, we need permission from the Department of Health, the Big Lottery Fund and the Charities Commission. In these cases we are optimistic of getting those permissions, as we have done when needed for our nine existing sites. However, this is a risk. Refusal of this kind of permission stopped our hydroelectric power project at Trews Weir.

Once leases are agreed we then need to invite our approved installers to tender, which should take around a month. We then need to decide who to commission, and then put up the panels, which will take another month. The timescale for agreeing leases and PPAs is much less clear, however. Although we’re trying to do things quickly it is possible that we’ll be just scraping in before the deadline.