A COMMUNITY group is encouraging schools to sign up for solar power, in its bid to both transform the city and encourage students to learn about renewable energy.

As the government will be withdrawing the renewable energy Feed-in Tariff from March (income received from selling solar power generated energy into the national grid), Salisbury Community Energy (SCE) is appealing for as many large sites as possible to sign up for solar photovoltaics (PV) installation before this deadline, to not only help in making Salisbury eco-friendly but to pay back local investors and form a community benefit fund.

If a site agrees to solar PV installation, paid for by SCE’s fundraising effort, the surplus profit will be channelled back into a community benefit fund for other projects in and around Salisbury, including more solar panels, flood mitigation and the Bishops water wheel restoration project.

Several schools have already shown interest in installing solar power energy, either through SCE or independently, including Bishop Wordsworth's School, South Wiltshire University technical college (UTC), Wiltshire College, St Martins and Avon Valley College.

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SCE director Caroline Lanyon said the organisation, formed in 2017, is for community benefit and not profit and described SCE’s solar power model as "investment by the community, into the community”, adding: “It's actually people putting money into their local projects and getting a return, it's fabulous.”

Founder of SCE, Alison Craig, added: "Our ultimate ambition is for Salisbury as a whole to be run on renewable energy. What we'd like to see is a gradual shift towards seeing renewable energy as normal.

"Community Energy works at a grass roots level because we know the buildings, we know the areas, and so it's a very interesting network to help set up.”

As well as the fire station in Ashley Road and River Bourne Community Farm, Salisbury Cathedral is leading the way as one site that is seriously considering installing solar PV, subject to permissions and consents.

The decision is supported by the Bishop of Salisbury and Church of England's lead bishop on the environment, Nicholas Holtam.

The Bishop said climate change is a “very grave concern”, adding: “The scientific consensus is clear that it is urgent we move our economy, and ways of life, to a more sustainable footing, in order to reduce the worst impacts of climate change.

"I support every initiative that helps to drive change, including the one by Salisbury Community Energy to install solar PV on Salisbury schools and colleges.”

For more information about the group and its work visit the Salisbury Community Energy website.