Energy featured

Bridport goes Solar

March 16, 2023

A Transition group is exploring a new way to make it cheaper and easier for residents to install solar panels on their roofs. Sustainable Bridport (the new name for Transition Town Bridport) negotiated a discount from a local PV panel installer – if the group facilitated a number of homes to come forward for solar panels at the same time.

Sam Wilberforce said the approach allowed them to smooth the way for individual householders, who may not have time or knowledge to research different options. Yet neighbours often live in similar houses and face similar challenges – looking at a whole area can be more efficient.

“Much of the centre of Bridport is a conservation zone, and the question of whether the panels come under permitted development is a grey area,” he said. “Around Bridport, a number of developments, many of bungalows with big roofs, presented an ideal opportunity for installers to cover several roofs one after the other using the same scaffolding and fitting teams, passing on the economy of scale to the buyers.”

Residents of Bridport gather in a community hall to hear about solar power. A speaker stands at the front of a packed semicircle of chairs to address the meeting.

Sustainable Bridport’s recommended solar installer demonstrates the parts of the system and answers questions at a packed public meeting.

Sustainable Bridport circulated leaflets about the scheme, sharing the typical cost and inviting people to register interest. More than 70 residents came to a meeting last week, where they met the installer, heard about the options, costs and payback of solar panels over time, as well as the benefits of renewable, independent energy.  Sixty more expressed their interest but couldn’t make it on the night.

It was a great forum to air detailed questions on insurance, dealing with wind and pigeons, connection to the grid and structural issues. To date, 60 households have gone ahead with asking for a quote. Now energy prices are set to drop, demand may fall.

The Transition group isn’t getting any income from the scheme – which allows them to act as an impartial co-ordinator. They’ve also advised everyone to get their own alternative quotes. While installing solar panels is still a significant cost for households, and out of reach for many, the group has been able to bring people together to learn about their options and reduce that cost by 12%.

Sam said interest has been so great from residents, in retrospect, they could have chosen two or three suppliers to keep up momentum and give people more choice. For another similar scheme in Swanage, the installer agreed to pay £50 per installation into a community fund which would have resources other energy or community work. Sustainable Bridport would be happy to support other groups interested in setting up a similar scheme and learning from their experience.   Get in touch here.

Find out more from Sustainable Bridport

Explore other community responses to rising energy costs here.


Teaser photo credit: Author supplied.

Chris McCartney

Chris manages Transition Together's social media and creates our monthly newsletters. She has a background in journalism and campaigning and has worked for Oxfam and Friends of the Earth. She is a founder of Repair Cafe Belfast and Belfast Tool Library, community projects which bring people together to share resources and skills and reduce consumption. She loves to tell stories that balance a glimpse of a better future and some practical steps to get there. She is a novice veg grower and fair-weather cyclist.

Tags: community solar energy projects