Hundreds of solar panels are to be installed on the roof of the Northgate Arena leisure centre thanks to a green community initiative aimed at reducing the city’s carbon footprint.
Residents have been buying shares in the scheme through the Chester-based Community Benefit Society with the aim of raising £61,000 to fit the first 200 solar panels.
Already £30,000 has been generated.
Investors are asked to buy a minimum 250 shares priced at £1 each with a maximum 5,000 shares allowable.
Annual interest of 3-4% will paid based on the surplus which is expected to amount to £45,000 over a 20 year period.
The society will make money by selling the electricity generated to Brio Leisure, who run Northgate Arena, but at a cheaper rate than their current provider. And the scheme will benefit from a 20-year-long subsidy at the higher feed-in tariff rate through an initiative funded by energy consumers to promote solar power.
Cheshire West and Chester Council has agreed to fund another 200 panels with the total of 400 helping to supply what is admittedly ‘a fraction’ of the leisure centre’s annual energy needs. But every little helps.
Graham Booth, one of the society’s four directors, is asking more residents to consider buying shares in its first project.
Graham, who lives in the Garden Lane area, said: “We are looking for local people who are environmentally-minded to become members of Chester Community Energy by buying shares in the society. They receive interest and the value of their shareholding does not fluctuate like shares on the stock exchange.
“This opportunity could be ideal for anyone who is looking for a medium to long term investment with a reasonable return of interest.”
The panels are due to be installed this September.
There have been doubts about the future of the building in the past with proposals to demolish the centre and redevelop the area. But Graham says that is no longer the case.
And the leisure centre building is to undergo refurbishment works with new roof insulation and covering currently being installed over the swimming pool.
Once this work is completed, the solar panels will be installed and the electricity generated fed straight into the leisure centre.
The scheme has been 18 months in the making, requiring many hours of dedicated work by the directors of the society, who are all local residents working voluntarily.
Anybody interested in becoming a member can find out more by visiting the society’s website where the business plan and share offer document, including an application form, can be downloaded.