These are the main questions we get asked about our work and we hope this document will provide the answers you need. If you have any further questions, please do contact us.
Who insures the panels?
Wey Valley Solar (the Co-op) insures the panels for public liability. We ask our schools/charities etc (the Organisation) to add the panels to their contents/ buildings policies for damage/loss. This is normally done at a nominal cost. If there are any queries, we are happy to help here.
Who owns the solar panels?
The Co-op will own the panels for the 25 years of the agreement, after which they will be given to the Organisation.
Who owns the Co-op?
The Co-op is owned by around 130 members of the public and our 11 school/church members. All members are treated equally and have one vote each. We pay interest on the shares held by the public and members, but our profits are paid only to the Organisations. The public who support us are often resident near our Organisation members. They invest to support their local community organisations and to help tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions.
What happens if the panels stop working?
The Co-op will monitor the performance of the panels throughout the contract period. We do this by taking meter readings remotely, but we may ask the Organisation to take a meter reading from time to time to make sure the online meter readings are correct. If there is a generation problem, the Co-op is responsible for getting the panels fixed and we’ll work with the Organisation to find a suitable time to send a contractor in to fix it.
Are you contractors DBS checked?
Yes, we make sure our contractors have had a DBS check before working on sites.
Can you install safely at a school with pupils around?
Some sites do lend themselves to term time installation better than others, but where this isn’t practical, we will look for a holiday installation date. We can be flexible on installation dates, if we have plenty of notice.
Why does the Organisation get a profit share, can’t we just pay less?
All businesses – including community owned social enterprises like us – need to make a profit. Co-operatives, like us, are different in that they return the profit to their customers (our schools/charities etc in this case), not their shareholders. This approach reduces risk to the Co-op by reducing the risk of under charging, and avoids an Organisation being overcharged, since all profits are returned to the Organisation
Who pays for maintenance and cleaning?
The Co-op will, for as long as we own the panels.
What if the panels need to be removed for roof repairs?
The Co-op will work with the Organisation to resolve such issues. If the roof repair is not related to the solar panels, the Organisation will be responsible for the cost associated with removing and reinstalling the panels as part of the roofing project.
How are the panels paid for?
The Co-op pays for the panels. It raises the money by issuing community shares, via a share raising. Community shares are invested in by members of the public. We seek to involve the public close to the Organisation where possible.
Will the system work with our existing panels?
This is slightly more complicated, but yes. We may have to add an additional meter and look more closely at your consumption to ensure we size the scheme correctly.
What happens after the 25 years?
We give the panels to the school. The panels will continue generating, providing the site with free electricity for many more years. If you wish, the Co-op will continue to monitor and maintain the panels for you for a modest fee to cover our costs. Eventually decommissioning will be required but we hope this will be a repowering (installing new panels/inverters etc.) as we do not see the need for low carbon electricity ending. The obvious time to do this is when replacing the roof.
Can we require you to take the panels down after 25 years?
There is no point in taking the panels down after 25 years. They are very long lived, have been maintained, and at that stage generate free electricity for the school. If, despite that, the school wishes to have the flexibility to ask us to remove the panels after 25 years at our cost we will include that provision in the contract and the school’s profit share will be retained to build up a reserve sufficient to meet the cost of removal.
Can we buy the panels once they are up or how do we get out of the contract before it ends?
You can buy the panels at any time, which brings the contract to an end. We apply a small mark-up to the depreciated cost of the panels to cover the cost of our project management and community share raising work. If you buy the panels, we suggest you consider asking us to continue monitoring them. Solar panels which are unmonitored often underperform. It is unlikely a single school will have the resources to monitor the panels, whilst Energy4All monitors over 200 solar sites enabling rapid detection of problems.
How much will we save?
This varies depending on the price we charge you for power, the price you pay your electricity supplier and the size of your system. We are fair to our schools, so an easy to install system with high internal consumption will pay less for electricity from us than a difficult to install system, or one where a lot of the generated electricity is exported. We aim to give every school a saving of at least 15% (and often more) from their grid price.
Our bills are complicated already, will this be more difficult?
The electricity which is used on site from the solar panels will not be recorded by your main, electricity company meter, so that bill will reduce. We meter and invoice your use of electricity from the solar panels. Our bill is very straightforward – just your consumption x the agreed price per unit. There are no standing charges or other charges from us. The Co-op will send a quarterly bill for electricity that has been consumed on site by the school.
Is there any point using solar panels on roofs?
Yes! They offer low carbon electricity at the point of use – avoiding the costly national grid upgrades that large power stations (including solar/wind farms) require. Despite the end of the Feed-In-Tariff subsidy the prices have dropped to be competitive with other sources of electricity.
What if the roof can’t take the weight?
We have a structural engineer inspect all roofs prior to installation and we will not install without their approval. Not all roofs are found to be suitable in which case we will try to identify other suitable roofs at the school to enable you to proceed.
Should we pay for the system ourselves?
If the school has the money upfront then this is an option, but we have experience in installing, managing and monitoring installations which would be difficult for a single school to replicate. Some schools contribute towards the cost (particularly on new roofs) in which case they receive a lower price for electricity.
How long does installation take?
This depends on the size of the scheme, a small 20 kWp scheme may take 3 days, whereas a 200 kWp installation across multiple roofs can take over 2 weeks.