Solar in Southmead – powering local transformation | Big Society Capital
Southmead Social Venture

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Solar in Southmead – powering local transformation

Social issue | 

Southmead is an out of town estate, a few miles from the centre of Bristol. It’s a great place with a real buzz and lots of positives, but it also has its challenges. Southmead has the lowest life expectancy in Bristol, more than 9 years lower than the neighbouring ward of Henleaze, and we’re involved in many projects to try and address that. We want to improve people’s wellbeing and hopefully have an impact on their life expectancy.

The Greenway Centre is run by the Southmead Development Trust and serves the community. We provide training courses for job seekers, fitness classes for people referred by their local GP, an exercise-on-release scheme for people recently released from Horfield Prison, facilities for local groups and a business centre offering affordable space for local start-ups.

A few years ago, we took the decision to install solar panels on the roof of the Greenway Centre to reduce our overheads and generate additional income. We couldn’t afford to do it ourselves, so we started looking at the alternatives. We did find one organisation who offered to install the panels, but they wanted to keep all of the financial benefits for themselves.

Pure Leapfrog provided us with a solution. We borrowed £50,000 for the solar panels from them, and once the loan is repaid, we will keep all the financial benefits, such as the feed-in tariff, a set amount paid by the energy supplier for each unit of electricity produced by the panels.

In total, 207 panels were installed on the roof of the Greenway Centre, and they generate £750 per month from the feed-in tariff, which we use to repay Pure Leapfrog. Once our loan is repaid after 7 years, we anticipate generating more than £170,000 in total as a regular source of income from the panels over the remainder of their lifespan.

The solar panels mean that our own energy costs are reduced, resulting in lower overheads for the Greenway Centre, which we can pass on. We host a heavily subsidized play scheme that offers working parents the chance to drop their kids off, and we can afford not to charge them any rent. We can offer really low rates of rent to local businesses and community start-ups while also offering reduced-rate gym membership for local people.

For the Greenway Centre, social investment means that the play scheme can exist and we don’t need to charge them rent, the start-up businesses can create employment opportunities in the community, improve the local economy and pay reduced rent. It has been a really useful tool in generating income to help the centre ensure its services remain affordable, something that would have been a lot more difficult without Pure Leapfrog. Essentially, social investment has enabled us to do more good stuff!

Last updated | 
8 October 2015

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