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Solar Solutions; leaving a legacy in Leeds

After a particularly wet morning, the sun's emergence couldn't have been better timed, coinciding perfectly with the start of the Solar Solutions for Leeds Workshop. Hosted in the ODI Leeds space at Munro House, the event drew in attendees from a wide array of backgrounds, brought together by a collective willpower to increase the solar energy uptake within Leeds. As Leeds City Council are constantly looking for opportunities for development and funding, this workshop offered the perfect environment to bring stakeholders together to explore how best to deploy solar in Leeds.

The event - chaired by Paul Connell, founder of ODI Leeds - was far from your normal run-of-the-mill workshop; from the offset it became clear that ODI Leeds events are about producing a relaxed and sociable environment. Indeed, attendees were encouraged to engage with one another, resulting in an atmosphere that was just as much about 'what we can do for you' as it was 'what you can do for me.'

After a brief introduction from Paul, Tom Knowland - from Leeds City Council - set the tone for the afternoon, outlining the Council's desire to be open and approachable, while highlighting that there are plenty of opportunities for low carbon technology projects. Leeds is a pioneering city for innovation with plenty of potential for solar projects! After setting the scene, Tom made way for the lightning speakers, where their quick-fire presentations began to highlight an underlying theme. A theme of legacy, of long-lasting sustainable solutions.

First up was James Hulme (also from Leeds City Council) who outlined the potential for solar expansion within Leeds. Public owned buildings - such as schools, leisure centres and corporate structures - could be ideal for solar installations, incorporating solar energy systems of all sizes, ranging from 3kW - 150kW. Through software such as GIS and collecting hourly energy data, the council is hoping to establish which places are suitable for solar uptake.

James Elston from Contract Natural Gas and Ellis Hall from Green Yorkshire Solar were next to take centre stage, where they outlined their desire to diversify away from gas. This wasn't just about technology though, this was about education. Working with schools, CNG propose to fit and pay for 30kW systems on school buildings. As well as producing energy, the systems would also be used alongside an educational programme, teaching the students about renewable energy generation.

Following closely was Sean Davey from Egnida. As a company, they have a diverse portfolio of renewable technologies (except wind), offering solutions on energy management, investment funding, installation, and monitoring. Their projects are often aimed at community centres, with an emphasis on creating a legacy for their clients. Using innovative technology and a holistic approach, Sean championed their successful project in Merthyr Tydfil. Based on the concept of 'working with, not for,' Egnida installed 9 separate, fully-funded systems on an array of buildings within the small welsh community. A perfect case study of what can be achieved! As well as their ability to fast track a project, from feasibility to finished product, they also have secured funding of £100m from a green investment fund which is ready to be spent. Sean was quick to add that the fund was not limited to Welsh projects.

The last of the lightning speakers was SmartKlub's own Charles Bradshaw-Smith who described the successful SCENe project at Trent Basin. Working within a sustainable community energy network, their ethos is based around 'doing Eco pragmatically.' It's this pragmatism that drives innovation, with a large focus on optimising their systems. As optimisation increases, so does the income! With a 25% savings target - coupled with a key aim to alleviate fuel poverty - changes to user behaviour are paramount. Following a short period of reflection (while consuming coffee and biscuits) the attendees gathered for a final time in groups; this time to review and challenge everything they had heard during the afternoon session. The opportunity to bring stakeholders from all corners of solar generation - from academia to industry - prompted fantastic discussions. Together they highlighted both the issues and potential answers, producing an invaluable collaborative document. Not too bad for an afternoon's work.

Leaving a legacy takes time, however they must all start somewhere. Wednesday's Solar Solutions Workshop could prove to be the beginning of a bright future for solar generation in Leeds.

If you want to add your voice to the conversation, the collaborative document is still accessible here. If you want to attend any future events focused on renewable or smart city solutions for Leeds, then sign up to our mailing list for all the news and upcoming events.