Solar-Powered Community Buildings

Solar-Powered Community Buildings

CAN is a partner in the Northumberland solar-powered community buildings project which started in 2022 and has ambitious plans. 

Watch a video shared in November 2023 showcasing the project:

Project aims

  • Reduce energy costs for community buildings in Northumberland.
  • Support resilience in response to long term climate change and short-term events.
  • Reduce carbon footprint of community activities.
  • Generate revenue for community groups.

…all whilst limiting risk and maximising reward for community groups.


The project will install solar PV panels onto the roofs of community buildings across rural Northumberland (village halls, churches, community-owned sports facilities, etc) alongside battery storage.

This will be achieved through a Community Energy Co-operative which will:

  • Raise the capital funds for all installations and pre-development work (system design, planning etc) through a combination of grant and loan.
  • Lease the roof space and space for equipment from each building.
  • Put in place a power purchase agreement with each building to buy power from the batteries at a rate significantly discounted compared to market rates. When local generation is not available, each building will buy energy from the grid as usual.
  • Insure and manage all installations for the duration of the lease period, including grid connection, metering and grid feed in.

The Co-op will be formed as a Community Benefit Society and all participating buildings will be eligible to become members.


We all need to reduce our carbon emissions – including community buildings. Greater use of self-generated energy will significantly reduce the running costs of community buildings, particularly important in times of rising and fluctuating energy costs.

In addition, Storms Arwen and Malik highlighted the potential impact of power cuts and loss of connection to the national grid. Battery storage of electricity enables power to be maintained until re-connection has been achieved – particularly important for those community buildings which act as formal ‘Emergency Rest Centres.’

The benefits for community buildings

  • Reduced energy costs.
  • Solar panels reduce carbon footprint.
  • Local generation and storage increase resilience in case of adverse events.
  • Co-op bids for grant funding and secures loan funding at preferential rates, allowing discounts on energy to community buildings.
  • Co-op accesses preferential rates for installations.
  • Co-op takes on all risk.
  • Co-op negotiates with energy providers to achieve bulk buying discounts on grid power.
  • Expert project manager manages installations and operation.


Using feasibility funding secured through the Rural Community Energy Fund, managed through the North East and Yorkshire Net Zero Hub, we have:

  • Completed feasibility work (system design, costings and carbon appraisal) on 19 community buildings spread across rural Northumberland.
  • Secured planning permission for installations at five of these buildings.
  • Progressed planning and listed building consent work on the remaining 14 buildings.
  • Completed feasibility work on an additional 20 community buildings.
  • Established a waiting list of additional community buildings keen to join the project.

In addition, we have:

  • Completed financial modelling with respect to the Co-op, all costs and projected income.
  • Secured funding to carry out the first three installations, through our partnership with The National Lottery Community Fund.
  • Progressed discussions regarding additional funding, both grant and loan.
  • Developed a ‘Precedent Lease’ as the basis for lease agreements with each building.
  • Developed the model and draft articles for the proposed Co-op, with support from Co-operatives UK.

Next Steps

  • Work with each community building identified as potential initial Co-op members.
  • Formation of Co-op (summer 2023).
  • Provision of draft lease agreement and power purchase agreement.
  • Procurement of installers (framework).
  • First installations in autumn 2023.
  • Complete pre-development work on additional buildings, securing the necessary planning and related permissions.
  • Secure funds to enable feasibility work for community buildings on the waiting list to join the project.
  • Continue to seek additional potential community building participants, aiming for 100 installations over the next five years.

Project Partners

This project has been developed in direct partnership between CAN, the Rural Design Centre Innovation Project and the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise.

A steering group of participating buildings was established in 2022.

This project could not have been developed without the input from all three core partners and the community buildings themselves.