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 was formed as a Community Benefit Society in September 2023 – ‘Northumberland Community Energy Ltd’, NCEL for short. All participating buildings are 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’ or ‘Community Response Hubs.’

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 is an Associate member of NEPO (the North East Purchasing Organisation), enabling members to obtain competitive quotes for energy supply through this bulk buying mechanism.
  • Expert project manager, employed by CAN, manages installations and operation.


Using funding secured through the North East and Yorkshire Net Zero Hub, the National Lottery Community Fund and the Rural Asset Multiplier Pilot of the North of Tyne Combined Authority, we have:

  • Completed feasibility work (system design, costings and carbon appraisal) on 40 community buildings spread across rural Northumberland.
  • Secured planning permission for installations at 12 of these buildings.
  • Secured funding for the first four installations and a further 15 by March 2025.
  • Completed bat surveys at four listed building installations, a pre-requisite to formal planning and listed building consent applications in such locations.
  • Secured funding to progress planning and other necessary permissions at a range of buildings, building the pipeline of installations.
  • Procured legal services to enable leases to be prepared and agreed at each installation.
  • Secured funding to carry out initial feasibility at over 30 additional buildings.
  • Established a waiting list of additional community buildings keen to join the project.

Our aim is to secure 100 installations over the next five years. Watch this space for further updates or contact:

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.