Small-scale solar power is changing lives and disrupting traditional models

Solar power is becoming an increasingly important part of the planet's energy mix. In 2016, solar photovoltaic grew faster than any other fuel, with China responsible for nearly half of worldwide expansion, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

While solar power projects can be grand in scale there are some that, while smaller, are no less important. Repowering London, a not-for-profit based in the U.K. capital, helps facilitate community-owned renewable energy projects there.

In October 2015, Banister House in Hackney, east London, became home to the borough's first community-owned solar power project. The project was developed by Repowering London, residents of Banister House and Hackney Energy.

Banister House Solar, as the scheme is known, produces community-owned renewable electricity for the building and its residents. According to Repowering London, 679 tons of carbon dioxide will be prevented from entering the atmosphere during the project's 20-year lifetime.

A small community generating its own energy is not restricted to large urban conurbations. In Scotland, for example, the Findhorn Ecovillage is home to four community-owned wind turbines with a total capacity of 750 kilowatts.

These turbines help make the village a net exporter of electricity. According to those behind the project, around half of the electricity generated is used on-site through a private grid, with the rest sent to the main grid.

Back in the capital, Agamemnon Otero, CEO of Repowering London, said that smart meters had also been installed for residents so that they can see what they are generating. The cost of the project, around £150,000 ($209,148), was raised by members of the public, with investors getting a share of the profit when energy is sold back to the grid.

"While it might not seem a large amount, £150,000… all of it was raised from the local community within eight weeks," Otero said.

"There's a 4 percent return on their investment, there (are)… savings to the building owner so that the actual council is making savings as well. The financial benefits stream out both for members and the partners involved."

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