Over the last 3 years, Brighton Energy Co-op (BEC) have installed 270 kw of solar PV across three locations at the University of Brighton which is now generating approx. 256500 kwh of green electricity every year for the University.  The University is ranked as one of the top 10 Universities in the country in terms of on-site renewable energy generation and over a third of the current installed capacity was installed as a result of the innovative collaboration with Brighton Energy Co-op.  The installation and operation of the panels is governed by a lease and power purchase agreement between the University and BEC.

The electricity provided to the University by BEC is at approximately 2/3 of the cost of equivalent electricity from the grid freeing up funds and providing the University with security against fluctuating electricity costs. The net saving to the University over the 20 year period of the lease with BEC is expected to be £205,000 with over 2000 tonnes of carbon saved.  At the end of the lease term the University will also take ownership of the panels at no cost and benefit from there onwards from free electricity for the remaining lifetime of the panels.

The project was championed by the University’s Head of Environment who helped BEC to negotiate logistical  issues around installation of the panels on the University’s buildings and get the necessary sign offs from the University’s estates, finance and legal departments.

To fund the installation of the panels, BEC managed to raise over £230K in finance from its energy co-operative members through a series of share offers [which were all over subscribed].  Many of those members live in the Brighton area. The income generated from the project has been reinvested into funding further solar installations in Brighton, repaying interest to investors and a proportion will also go into a community fund which is being used to fund environmental education initiatives within the Brighton area.

Having developed a successful model of collaboration with the University, Brighton Energy Co-Op are now planning to install community-owned electric vehicle charge points on the campus.

With University funding having suffered a series of cuts the community energy model offers an opportunity for University’s to invest in on-site renewable energy generation at no capital cost in ways which drive social impact. 

Benefits to Asset Owner

  • Benefit 1: Installation of renewable energy at no capital cost at a time when University budgets are tight
  • Benefit 2: Access to electricity at below grid prices and price security in fluctuating electricity markets
  • Benefit 3: Enables University to meet sustainability goals around reducing carbon whilst also having a social impact 
  • Benefit 4: Visible contribution supporting community energy innovation
  • Benefit 5: Scope for University Staff and Students to invest in making their University more sustainable improving employee and student morale

Benefits to Community Energy Group

  • Benefit 1: Reduction in carbon emissions through funding solar installation
  • Benefit 2: Business model that is, depending upon onsite energy use still viable without subsidies  
  • Benefit 3: Opportunities now exist to connect the onsite renewables installed with other emerging technologies such as EV charging points and these opportunities are being explored on the University of Brighton campus through a grant from the Next Generation Fund
  • Benefit 4: Income generated by the existing arrays has funded the development of additional solar projects in the Brighton area

How it was Funded

The University solar arrays were all funding through community share offers.  Over £230K of capital has been raised so far in connection with the University arrays. The feasibility work required for the project was funded with income derived from Brighton Energy Co-op’s other energy projects showing the benefits to community organisations of having a broad portfolio of projects. Any further community owned PV projects on the University campus will have to be economically viable without the FIT.