Solar panel group-buying scheme could help save money and the planet

Devon’s householders have the chance to help the county become net-zero by joining Devon Climate Emergency’s (DCE) solar panel group-buying scheme.

DCE is made up of Devon’s principle public and private sector organisations, and they have joined forces to draw up a Carbon Plan, the county’s roadmap to carbon neutrality.

The DCE’s latest project is Solar Together and, with group buying experts iChoosr Ltd, they are offering homeowners the chance to buy high quality solar photo-voltaic (PV) panels more cheaply than if they were buying them alone.

Led by Devon County Council, the scheme is partnered by ten of Devon’s planning authorities, who are all members of DCE’s Response Group (DCERG). The scheme’s partners are East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge and Torridge District Councils, West Devon Borough Council, Exeter City Council plus Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities.

Solar Together is one of the ways the DCE is helping local people take a positive step to reduce their own carbon footprints.

Research by the University of Exeter shows that 19% of all Devon’s carbon emissions are created by our homes, with more than half of those by grid-supplied electricity. The research claims that installing solar panels will reduce the amount of grid-supplied electricity needed for things
like hot water, with a transfer to more eco-friendly solar energy.

This scheme follows four similar projects run across the country last year that promise to deliver over 1,300 installations, saving an estimated 28,000 tonnes of carbon emissions from being produced.

Dr Phil Norrey, Chairman of the DCERG, said: “The DCE is committed to ensuring that Devon is net-zero by 2050 at the very latest. To achieve this, changes will have to be made at all levels, by everyone and every organisation. We will all have to take responsibility for our own carbon footprints, work together as a community and make the most of the opportunities that new technologies offer in areas including generating electricity sustainably.

‘Solar Together brings together these three key elements, and by investing in a solar PV system, you will be part of the solution and will own your own solar ‘power plant’ which will continue to help reduce emissions and save you money for at least the next two decades.

‘I would encourage any of our residents interested in cutting their energy bills and contributing to tackling climate change to register.”
Leader for South Hams District Councils, Cllr Judy Pearce, said: “As part of the partnership, we’re committed to finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint. We would encourage South Hams residents to sign up and see how collectively we can get a good deal for solar panel installation, which will also go some way to reducing the District’s carbon footprint. It’s a win-win situation.”

West Devon Borough Council’s, Cllr Mike Davies, Chair of Climate Change Working Group, said: “Solar power is a great way to save money on your energy bills while helping to reduce carbon emissions. This is a great scheme which we’re delighted to be a part of, so it’s worth registering to find out more.”

Marie-Louise Abretti, iChoosr UK Solar Manager added: “With residents of Devon looking for opportunities to reduce their carbon emissions and save on energy bills, the Solar Together group-buying scheme offers a straightforward way to make an informed decision and access a competitive offer from a trusted provider.”

While many believe that acres of farmland given over to the installation of solar panel arrays is nothing short of rural graffiti offering little benefit to the local community save the landowner, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE Devon) who have publicly voiced their opposition to solar farm arrays, do not object to solar panels being installed on roofs but with some reservation.

Spokesman for CPRE Devon Dr Philip Bratby told The Moorlander: “We have had concerns in the past about the large subsidies for rooftop solar which have led to fuel poverty, but the subsidies are no longer available.

‘There are also concerns about the impact of too much solar power on grid stability and we do not consider it wise for local authorities to be involved in schemes such as Solar Together, as it could lead to a conflict of interest and questions of impartiality, because the same local authorities are involved in the decisions for planning applications for solar farms.

‘Siting of roof top solar needs careful consideration.
There was an instance in Devon in which a neighbour’s life was (and still is) made a misery from the glare from the panels on his neighbour’s roof. There doesn’t seem to be any guidance or legislation to help. Furthermore, potential owners of rooftop solar should be made aware of the cost of maintenance. Solar panels should be inspected and cleaned regularly.
The inverter will need periodic replacement (perhaps every ten years) and this is not cheap.”

Ultimately it is down to the individual householder to decide if they wish to take up the recommendation and proceed with an installation. The first step, if interested, is to register for free at: www.solartogether.co.uk/devon/home. By registering, there is no obligation to install panels.

A ‘reverse’ auction involving pre-vetted suppliers will then take place this autumn and the winning bid will be the most cost-effective one for registered residents to then consider.

Registered households will then receive a recommendation, specifically tailored to the details they submitted in their registration. If they accept the recommendation, the specifics of their installation will be confirmed with a technical survey and then a date can be set for installation.

For more information about the scheme visit:
www.solartogether.co.uk/devon/home or if you wish to learn more about the activities of CPRE Devon visit
www.cpredevon.org.uk.

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Author: Eric Partridge

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