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Tenants get solar treatment

VISITORS to the Aspley area of Nottingham will have noticed a visible change in the urban landscape – the large solar panels on tenants’ houses. These are the fruit of Nottingham City Council’s concession deal with E.ON for the utility to fit PV to some 600 properties.

Now a second and bigger wave of solar installation in Nottingham’s social housing sector is about to begin with an £8.5m programme managed by Nottingham City Homes (NCH), which has responsibility for 29,000 council homes across the city. The installation on 1,450 homes across all wards should begin in September and is expected to create 100 jobs.

The three main PV installers (chosen from a shortlist of five) for the work have now been contracted and are: Wates, Kier Group and Keepmoat. None are based in Nottinghamshire but each contractor is expected to take on local business and social enterprises to do up to a quarter of the installation work. Written into the installers’ contracts will also be the stipulation that everybody involved in the work will be given appropriate MCS training in PV installation. At least ten of these 100 jobs will be apprentices. “The apprenticeships will fall in line with our One in a Million scheme,” said a spokeswoman for NCH. “This means for every million pounds spent with a contractor, we ask them to take on at least one apprentice. We’ve been doing it with our Decent Homes scheme and so far have nearly a hundred apprentices across the city employed by our contractors.”

As with the E.ON installation in Aspley, tenants are being told that the PV could save them around £110 a year on their bills. However, unlike the first installation programme, where E.ON owns the panels and so receives the Feed-in Tariffs, the beneficiary in this second wave is Nottingham City Council, which owns the panels and expects to receive ‘millions of pounds’ over 20-odd years. The scheme is costing the council £8.5m in borrowing to buy the solar panels, this cost to be recovered over the long term by the income from the FiTs generated by the solar electricity. The authority says that profits from the scheme will be set aside and used in part to make energy efficiency improvements to council properties.

Around 3,000 council homes in Nottingham have been identified as being suitable for PV. Tenants in the identified homes have been sent letters inviting them to register an interest. The deadline for applying was August 12. The authority hopes the first installations can begin in early September, with work completed by March 2012 at a rate of 55 installations per week. The NCH spokeswoman said that the initial tenant response to the scheme had been positive and that staff were out and about explaining to tenants how the scheme would work. “A misconception by some tenants is that they will somehow to have to pay for the PV panels,” she added. “But we have people who are good at explaining that the scheme is to free to them and that tenants will benefit from it.” 


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