Blog by Solar Energy UK member AES Solar
AES Solar’s remarkable Linlith-Go-Solar journey showcases an impressive commitment to community-driven sustainable change.
AES Solar installed around 70kWp of solar PV across five different sites for the community-led energy enterprise. The community energy enterprise project sought to make solar work for the whole town. It emerged as a Linlithgow Community Development Trust (LCDT) initiative in 2018. The project has delivered two successful phases to date.
To fund the installation of solar panels on local sports clubs, LCDT turned to the heart of Linlithgow—the community itself. This endeavour transformed residents into “Citizen Investors”. In partnership with Scottish Communities Finance Ltd, LCDT curated a bond portfolio. This offered secure investments, coupled with social and financial benefits. This enabled the local community to invest in the cause by purchasing these bonds and we were deemed the installation company up to the task!
The successful fundraising effort led to the commencement of Phase One of the project. The pilot project installed a 15 kWp solar PV system at Linlithgow Rugby Club. This achievement demonstrated a huge appetite and support for renewable energy in the town. As a result, a second ‘Linlith-Go-Solar’ bond was offered. The second Linlith-Go-Solar phase was also partly funded by Local Energy Scotland and the SPEN Green Economy Fund, acknowledging the success of Phase One. This would extend the benefits to other local sports facilities. This included an additional 15 kWp system on the rugby club. Then, an 18 kWp system was installed at Linlithgow Sports and Social Club. Finally, 22 kWp of solar PV was installed at Linlithgow Golf Club across two sites.
The solar PV systems perform effectively, generating cost-effective renewable energy. In turn, this provides an ethical rate of return to the local bondholders, 99% of whom are local people and organisations. Consequently, the energy bills and carbon footprints of the individual clubs have been reduced. Advanced monitoring systems have been implemented in all clubs allowing more control to optimise their energy generation and consumption. The initiative also generates surplus revenue through a bespoke Power Purchase Agreement. By selling solar electricity at a lower rate than the grid, LCDT can invest back into the community. This includes support for education, green spaces and charitable initiatives.
LCDT plans to scale up their ambitions with five additional community groups in four local authority areas. They will do this through a new partnership called Communities-Go-Solar. This in turn will create local jobs and business opportunities for SMEs. They also hope it will provide more youth development opportunities. This will build on the work of their Young Energy Enterprise Group. Youth development is an endeavour at the heart of this evolving social enterprise. These shared values have fostered a strong partnership between Linlith-Go-Solar and AES Solar. You could say it’s a well-suited “match”!
Our partnership with LCDT went beyond the installation process and contractual obligations. This included input to educational webinars and advice for residents. We also sponsored Team Genesis, a team from Linlithgow Academy. Team Genesis competed in the global STEM competition, F1 in Schools. We supplied the solar and battery kit free of charge. This powered the pit stop exhibition lights and display screen assessed in the final. The team from Linlithgow Academy made it to the world finals and would go on to be placed 8th in the world! We also supplied the Young Energy Enterprise Group with technical information for higher education students and facilitated live installation visits.
Fraser Falconer, former Chair of LCDT said: “All three sports clubs where the 5 systems were installed were delighted with the quality and delivery of the systems from the AES Solar operations team, particularly under highly pressured FiT and COVID lockdowns.
AES Solar are always at hand to help and advise, and we have also enjoyed their technical input into educational webinars such as those delivered through the Scottish Ecological Design Association for example. In a nutshell, we hope to work with AES for many years to come as we aim to expand Linlith-Go-Solar to support our Net Zero ambitions for our town. There is no doubt that without great partner companies like AES Solar, this would be impossible.”
In the face of climate change and the pressing need to transition towards more sustainable energy sources, community solar projects hold the promise of a brighter future. These projects not only promote renewable energy generation, they also foster a sense of unity and shared responsibility. Not everyone has the resources or a suitable rooftop. Community-owned solar projects overcome these limitations making solar more accessible for all. The financial advantages extend beyond savings, with profits reinvested into the local area.
Solar installers have the unique opportunity to be at the forefront of this movement. We can play a pivotal role in the success of community solar projects. Our expertise can turn aspirations of sustainability into reality. We not only contribute to the environment but also to the growth of the areas we operate in. And the opportunity to engage goes beyond the completed installation, in the form of educational outreach. This increased awareness can encourage broader adoption of sustainable practices inspiring individuals to become advocates for renewable energy.
AES Solar are incredibly enthusiastic about the potential of community solar projects. We are immediately drawn to projects that strive to make communities a more attractive, sustainable and vibrant place to live and work. It’s not too far off what we are trying to achieve in Forres where we call home and the wider region of Moray! This partnership not only illuminated Linlith-Go-Solar; it also serves as a guiding light for similar ventures, and we were delighted to be involved.
About the author AES Solar
Established in 1979, AES Solar was the first manufacturer of solar thermal collectors in Western Europe. Since then AES have dedicated themselves to being true solar experts, focussing on nothing other than improving the ways in which they harness the power of the sun as a sustainable energy source for their customers.
AES Solar was recently awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development 2022 and is now celebrating their 45th year, stating “we take great pride in everything we have accomplished for our customers and our community so far, and we will continue to strive to lead the solar industry while exceeding our Corporate Social Responsibility”