Sun goes down on solar panels

Solar roof panels in Eyemouth
Solar roof panels in Eyemouth

Reducing energy costs for tenants has always been important to Berwickshire Housing Association, moving from solar panels to wind energy seen as a natural progression.

The housing association took advantage of Government incentives to fit photovoltaic panels on many of their homes and now that those incentives are no longer as attractive BHA have stopped fitting them - but not before 670 of their homes have had photovoltaic (solar) panels installed to help tenants keep their energy bills down.

BHA achieved this by setting up Europe’s largest crowd-funded solar power project, aiming to install 750 roof-mounted domestic panels to save each tenant hundreds of pounds a year on utility bills.

Investors earned 7% initial interest and when the solar panels became fully operational, they receive their capital and interest return for 20 years.

With conventional energy costs set to spiral BHA continues to explore ways of reducing tenant costs and create local income through renewable energy projects alongside their major wind turbine project.

“We will continue to look at other things, ” said Helen Forsyth, BHA chief executive. “We are looking at working with other housing associations to develop lower cost electricity and are looking at whether we should be supporting the Our Power initiative.”

Our Power is a new independent energy supply company launched by social landlords in Scotland backed by £2.5 million from the Scottish Government and another £1 million from Social Investment Scotland, in the form of repayable loans.

It is the first independent energy supply company in the UK operating on a non-profit distributing basis, and plans to sell heat and power to tenants in 200,000 homes across Scotland by 2020.

As an Ofgem licenced supplier of gas and electricity the company provides lower cost energy to tenants and expects to save its members up to ten per cent on their household utility bills compared to standard commercial tariffs which could mount up to £11 million of savings for households over five years.

With the demise of solar panels to reduce future energy costs BHA now has a dedicated member of staff focusing on energy and fuel poverty with individual tenants.