The initiative, in partnership with the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative (ECSC), is reported to be the largest community-owned urban renewables project in the UK.

Buildings that are chosen to participate – such as schools, leisure centres and community centres – will benefit from cheaper electricity from the solar panels, with surplus energy sold to the National Grid. The cumulative carbon emissions savings could reach 855 tonnes a year.

Vice-convener of transport and environment Councillor Adam McVey said: “This is fantastic news for Edinburgh and will bring long-term environmental, social and economic benefits.

“Community energy co-operatives allow local people to play a part in building a greener, more sustainable environment whilst raising awareness more generally about the importance of being energy efficient.

“We are aiming to meet our target of reducing Edinburgh’s carbon emissions by 42% by 2020 and this project is an important step towards us achieving this.”

Local benefit

Members of the public can buy shares in the co-operative, with Edinburgh residents given priority. Investors will earn 5% annual return on their investment, with any extra profits going towards the Community Benefit fund.

ECSC chair Dr Richard Dixon said: “2015 is an important year for climate change, with the world’s nations supposed to agree new global targets in Paris at the end of the year. Around the world local people are creating their own solutions to climate change by investing in local renewable energy schemes.

“The Edinburgh scheme is a winner all round because it will reduce climate emissions and provide cheap energy for schools and other Council buildings. Local people will also get a decent return on any money they choose to invest.”

Solar revolution

In Scotland, over 35,000 homes and 600 business premises currently have solar PV arrays fitted, but just over one thousand of these properties are located in Edinburgh. These homes saw 100% of their energy needs met by the sun during a bright April.

WWF Scotland’s director Lang Banks said: “Using council property to install solar panels on is a smart move that over their lifetime will help the capital to avoid thousands of tonnes of climate change emissions.

“In addition to improving the energy efficiency of buildings, we’d very much encourage all local authorities to look into the possibility of using their land and buildings to generate clean energy.

“Solar power is growing in popularity in Scotland, especially in urban areas where alternatives such as wind turbines might not be possible.”

Community power

May has seen a string of large-scale community projects, including the completion of Britain’s largest community-owned wind farm on the Isle of Lewis, and Bristol’s first-ever community-owned solar farm.

The sub-sector is growing rapidly after the Green Investment Bank recently launched a £60m investment in February to fund up to 30 community-scale renewable projects across the UK.

Brad Allen

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