Big Solar Co-op

Third Sector • UK

The Big Solar Co-op is an evolution of the current business model, making community solar PV viable across a huge range of sites through a large-scale co-operative approach and pooling talent.

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  • Making it happen!

Our story

The Big Solar Co-op is an evolution of the current community solar model and is driven by the same force – dedicated and talented people. Most are Volunteer Members, some are (sometimes) paid – let's call them solar activists.

In the current model, activists generally belong to a single solar co-operative, which is generally based in their region. They take on a bewildering range of tasks:
- Site finding
- Landowner negotiations
- Business planning
- Fundraising and outreach
- Technology procurement
- Build supervision
- On-going business management
- Co-op governance

In many small solar co-ops these roles are often taken on by a single person or very small group, sometimes for years on end. Some may like it that way, but for many, it turns out to be a frustrating experience and an unproductive one. Many solar co-ops with larger ambitions have stopped at one installation – only a handful have managed to go beyond scratching the surface of what is possible locally. Dedicated activists become stuck servicing onerous management requirements instead of developing and building new solar.

We focus on solar embedded within communities – principally on rooftops rather than solar fields. There are many such sites for solar in every village, town and city, right next to or on top of buildings that need reasonably priced, sustainable electricity. That demand is going to soar as electric vehicles take over. Sooner or later every suitable rooftop will need to have solar panels.

Our advice

We nurture and grow our activist base by breaking down the work into more manageable portions to enable people with less time to participate; encouraging specialisms and the increase of expertise; providing support through peer mentoring and paid staff; bringing volunteers together with a sense of purpose, achievement and fun!

A large-scale approach brings many benefits – increased purchasing power and standardisation of approach enables community solar to be viable under much harsher commercial conditions. Crucially, the removal of duplicated functions frees activists up to do the important work they need to do – not everybody wants to or needs to scrutinise accounts, book halls for AGMs, or update a website.

Our metrics

By 2025 we aim to:
- Install 100MW of rooftop solar. Each year this will save nearly 40,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and produce enough electricity to drive over 250 million miles by electric car.
- Engage 250 active volunteers across 25 local groups.
- Create 5 new sustainable jobs.
- Create ethical, accessible social investment opportunities raising £25m.

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Response to climate crisis





Third Sector, 50 to 249 people

Shared by

Noel Lambert

Updated Nov, 2023

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