More free solar panels offered

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An energy co-operative, which installed solar panels at the YMCA in Drumahoe last year free of charge has invited further public investment so it can help other charitable organisations.

Northern Ireland Community Energy recently launched NICE2, its second community share offer to raise £130,000, which will enable them to install solar panels free of charge for up to ten charitable and community organisations.

Last year NICE – Northern Ireland’s only solar energy co-operative - raised an impressive £150,000 with its first community share issue enabling them to install solar panels to benefit 13 organisations.

These included Ráth Mór, Creggan Enterprises in June and the YMCA Londonderry branch in July.

NICE Director Karen Arbuckle said the co-operative, which was launched almost exactly a year ago, has made a big impact in the third sector.

She added: “Thirty seven organisations have expressed an interest this time round.

“Because we were able to achieve so much last year it has given us the incentive to go ahead with another project.

“There is huge demand for solar panels but unfortunately we won’t be able to facilitate everybody.”

The community share enables the public to invest in the project with a minimum purchase of 250 shares and a maximum of 20,000 shares at £1 each. NICE received pledges of around £20,000 before the new share offer was even launched. The offer will close on May 31 2016.

NICE is supported by Co-operative Alternatives, which was commissioned by the Building Change Trust to run its Community Shares, Ready! pilot project to increase awareness of Community Shares in Northern Ireland.

Tiziana O’Hara of Co-operative Alternatives said: “NICE is a perfect example of how community shares can deliver clear benefits by helping the local economy, the environment and encouraging community action.

“The fact that it is launching a second share offer shows that there is a real demand for alternative sources of energy and that can be achieved by alternative ways of raising the necessary capital.”