Solar Connected Communities: Inverness Masjid

 

solar panels on the roof of the mosqueProject: Solar Connected Communities: Inverness Masjid
Technology: 6.4 kW Solar PV and 10.5 kW Battery Storage
Location: Inverness town centre
CARES funding: Time and support from a Local Energy Scotland Development Officer and external grant support
Date installed/operational: 15 March 2020

Background

The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme closed to new applications in March 2019. Ofgem offered community organisations a 12-month extension through a simple pre-registration process.

Communities interested in small solar PV projects (50 kW or less) could pre-register buildings with Ofgem and then have 12 months to get their project up and running but still receive FIT payments at the January 2019 rate. These payments are then guaranteed for 20 years.

Local Energy Scotland was keen to support the Masjid to make the most of this opportunity as the financial return is likely to be significantly more than developing projects without this support.

Project aims and objectives

Inverness has a small Muslim community (approximately only 1% of its population) and Inverness Masjid is the only hub for the North of Scotland. The Inverness Masjid Association wants to turn its building on Portland Place into a community gathering place and an Islamic education centre.

The building used to have a very low Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of G. With the help of the community and funding, their aim is to significantly reduce the building’s carbon emissions and make it extremely energy efficient, serving as an example of what is possible to the Highland-wide community.

Energy efficiency and building improvements carried out since 2014 have increased the building’s EPC to a C rating, which recommends the installation of solar PV.

Zero Waste Scotland initially worked with the association to identify further energy efficiency opportunities. It produced a detailed summary report which highlighted the installation of solar PV as a further way to reduce their carbon emissions.

Project aims and objectives

The project’s main aim was to take advantage of the last of the FIT opportunities for community groups. The project’s specific aims were to reduce the Mosque’s carbon emissions and improve its energy efficiency rating.

Profit from the FIT and the sale of electricity over the next 20 years will support groups’ future charitable activities.

Outcomes and achievements

Local Energy Scotland supported Inverness Masjid to pre-register for the FIT with Ofgem and obtain external private grant funding, in order to remain eligible for FIT, for the capital installation costs.

Inverness Masjid received approximately £9,000 from SSE’s Highland Sustainable Development Fund. They also used the services of AESSolar, a local contractor, to install the solar PV and battery system.

The project had to develop, build and secure the FIT within 12 months, and the solar panels became operational in March 2020. The 10 kW battery will be installed towards the end of March; this will increase the use of the solar energy generated on site so that it can be used for evening prayers.

The project is contributing towards the Scottish Government’s ambition to have 1GW of locally owned energy by 2020 and 2GW by 2030, as outlined in the Scottish Energy Strategy, its vision for the future of the energy system in Scotland.

The cost savings and surpluses that Inverness Masjid makes are being reinvested into their work, which contributes to a wider positive impact across the communities they serve.

Lessons learned

The association realised that building warrants were critical to the installation timeline. It was also important to ensure the correct information was submitted with the application before review. Having a good relationship with the installer and local councillor was also important because of tight deadlines.

The community groups involved in the project have developed their skills and knowledge around local renewable energy systems: this will build their capacity to deliver future projects.

By having the generation meter visible in the main hall, the trustees hope to engage and inform Mosque users about the benefits of solar energy.