Solar PV for Social Housing

Joju Solar takes a look at how Solar PV is back on the agenda for social landlords.

In 2011 Joju were heavily involved in a number of large third-party funded social housing projects, providing expert technical oversight and design services to blue-chip main contractors who had little experience with solar PV. Those projects we worked on saw approximately 3000 domestic systems installed in the space of around 6 months as local authorities and councils rushed to rent out their roof space to the developers. The rush stopped overnight as the government confirmed a heavy reduction in the Feed-in Tariff rates.

This year Joju Solar have experienced somewhat of a renaissance in this line of work, completing the design and installation of hundreds of systems for Brighton and Hove Council and Greenfields Community Housing in Essex. Albeit with one significant difference – the landlords are now paying for the systems themselves, and we think that’s great news.

Feed-in Tariffs may not be what they were in 2011 but installation costs have dropped massively, thanks to material costs falling and experienced installation teams who can commission multiple properties each day. This adds up to a sensible return on investment for the authority, and by investing their money in solar they can help tenants most affected by high energy costs to cut their bills.

Whereas a developer wanting to maximise their profits by cherry picking the biggest and best roofs will solely be focused on the bottom line, we have been pleased to see our current clients taking a different approach. By targeting properties off the gas grid or those ranking lowest by Indices of Multiple Deprivation the budgets they have can do the most to eleviate fuel poverty.

An example of how a fuel poor household could have missed out under a developer-financed project would be a property with a pre-paid key meter. These meters pose an issue since if the credit runs out then the electricity goes off and the PV system shuts down, meaning loss of income for the funder. Perversely though, the tenants with key-meters are likely to be the most in need and happily we are installing systems on these houses in the projects we are completing in Brighton and Essex. The fact that some tenants regularly check their credit on the meter also means that the benefit of solar PV can be seen immediately. To quote one tenant we recently installed for “It’s the best thing ever! I cooked a meal on my electric cooker, ran the washing machine and dryer and it only cost me 21 pence.”

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