The club engages a large volume of young people in the area by being able to charge only £2 per visit. They had floodlights installed to offer winter and late night sessions but were faced with having to double their charges to cover electricity costs.
Such an increase would have made it too expensive for many of the children and the club faced having to limit their opening hours.
That was until they came up with the idea of generating their own renewable energy to power the lights. “I’ve always been a big believer that if we are going to do this we’ve got to do it for the local community. The local kids, they can’t afford big money … so we wanted to put on these sessions really cheap.” Ian, Club Chairman.
“We couldn’t pass the cost onto the people who come. What would be the point if no-one could afford to come? We didn’t want the club to be elitist, we wanted it to be for everybody.” Jeremy, Club Secretary.
The club didn’t have a space that was suitable for a wind turbine or solar PV so it had to think creatively. They created a “rent-a-roof” solution, approaching a council owned plant nursery to install solar panels on their roof space and share the benefits. The council gets their power from the panels and the BMX club get the income from the electricity sold under the Feed-in tariffs (FIT) to pay to run their floodlights.
Before the deal was finalised, they undertook a feasibility study which confirmed the location being suitable for solar PV in that: the roof was south-west facing in order to catch sufficient sunlight the roof structure was strong enough and in good condition to hold the weight of the panels the building was within a secure compound making them safe from vandalism or theft.
The Bradford Bandits BMX Racing Club is a community sports club, run by volunteers on a non-profit making basis. They are affiliated to British Cycling, as a Go-ride club and are fully constituted.
The affiliation to British Cycling provides access to public liability insurance for the club to run the races at the track and shows they run the club with due care and attention.
The Go-ride status along with their Clubmark accreditation from Sport England demonstrate that the club has all the policies and procedures in place to provide a safe environment at the track.
As the club grew they developed their accreditations, which enabled them to apply for funding and drafted a constitution to demonstrate what their aims are, which became important as more members started to join.
The Bradford Bandits will receive payments from the Feed-in tariffs (FIT) scheme, which are estimated to be around £2,800 a year.
The council will use the electricity from the solar PV panels in their nursery building. This is estimated to save around 57 per cent on their electricity bill in comparison to the previous year, or £821 a year.
Benefits for the community
Beyond the energy and the income generated, the riders can continue to access the BMX track and training at an affordable cost.
Furthermore, the club can now be confident of their future for years to come, given the income under FIT is tax free and payments are designed to continue for 25 years.
“In the economic climate we’ve got there’s not going to be the funding around, so we’re hoping that through this renewable energy we’re getting through the solar panels that’s going to make the club more sustainable.” Jeremy, Club Secretary.
“When you’ve got funding in place for 25 years, people aren’t going to be coming in and struggling and thinking how are we going to make this work.” Jeremy, Club Secretary.
Instead the club can continue to build on it’s success. One of the riders who uses the track is already ranked in the top six in the UK. Now the Bradford Bandits have their sights on training for the Olympics.
With the floodlights in place, the club is now busier than ever, with up to 60 riders a night, four times the number that were coming last autumn.
“Coming up with the idea of using renewable energy has been like a lightbulb moment to the club.” Jeremy, Club Secretary.
The club’s green moves have inspired others too. Parents and children coming down to the track are thinking about their energy use at home.
“We’re all sort of boiling the kettle less and turning lights off. You know, even the kids are going round the house sort of keeping an eye on what energy is being used.” Parent of BMX rider.
Benefits for the council
The panels are making a significant contribution to their carbon footprint reduction targets – they are set to slash 18 per cent compared to an expected 10 per cent aim.
“It works perfectly, it’s a win-win situation.” Graeme Atkins, the council building manager.
Bradford Bandits Set up costs
The solar PV cost £43,400 to install and includes 45 Photovoltaic panels, each with a generation capacity of 210 kWp, making a total generation capacity of 9.45 kWp.
The BMX club received funding from Green Streets, a British Gas initiative to support communities to run projects that save energy, generate energy and engage their local community.
If the BMX Club had not received a grant, it would take around 12 years to pay back the installation costs, using the payments from the FIT and savings made on electricity generated for the council.
The cost of maintenance for solar PV panels is low. Depending on where they are situated, they may need to be cleaned occasionally. It is advisable to have the wiring and system checked occasionally by an electrician and the inverter may need replaced after 10 to 12 years, at a current cost of around £1,200.
If you don’t yourself have access to a suitable place for renewable energy, don’t give up. You can share the benefits of green energy with others; you just need to find the mutual benefit. Don’t be put off from applying for grant funding – even if it’s an unknown area for you.
Many funders are looking for a good idea and/ or good value – financial or community orientated. Jeremy and Ian remember the night they went along to pitch for money for their green energy idea:
“It was after work, we’d had no dinner, we were two ordinary guys faced with people in suits, with clipboards. We thought we wouldn’t get anywhere. But at the end of the night they said we were a winner!”
Free from worrying about their financial future, the Bradford Bandits look forward to focusing on the club and expanding even further.
They hope to support more champions and even put in a grandstand for parents and fans. Watch this space!
Current contribution to the grid
Each year the panels are estimated to generate the amount of electricity used by 2.36 houses a year. But given that the council is currently using most of the energy generated, their likely annual export should be enough to power around 60 per cent of an average household’s needs.
It is generally accepted that a roof facing within 90 degrees of south is best for solar PV.
The pitch of the roof also plays a part in the panel’s efficiency – the nursery roof was at 30 degrees, which creates an efficient angle for the solar PV.
A structural survey should be carried out to check if a roof is suitable for solar PV. When checking the roof structure, make sure the roof is not old or sagging.
Also check the condition of the joists for potential problems like rot. The roof will need to be able to safely carry the weight of the panels, which in this case are about 20 kilogrammes per square metre.
However, PV panels can be installed in a range of sizes. Homes and smaller buildings may use a smaller system to that installed on the nursery building.
How it works
Planning and permissions
Planning permission was not required to install the PV panels on the council nursery as it was considered to be covered by the General Permitted Development Order for local authorities, covering works on ancillary buildings.
Residential properties will not always require permission either, due to guidelines of “permitted development” which apply in England, Wales and Scotland.
However, there are restrictions on permitted planning which include: panels should project no more than 200mm from the roof or wall surface properties in conservation areas or World Heritage sites may require planning consent, and listed properties may require listed building consent panels should be sited, so far as is practicable, to minimise the affect on the appearance of the building and amenity of the area.
The guidelines differ in England, Wales and Scotland, with additional restrictions on the above. You should always check with your local authority as to whether you need planning. Non-domestic properties are not yet covered by permitted planning and will need to check what permission is required with the local planning authority.
How to get started
Follow in Jeremy and Ian’s footsteps and speak with others in your community to find out if there’s support for installing renewable energy. You too may find a partner willing to share the benefits and make big changes to your community.
“We’ve regenerated this part of the park. It used to be really a tip and nobody came down here. We’ve made it so that people come and stay when it’s dark! People wouldn’t think it would be safe to be in the park at this time of night unless we were here… We’re a success story!” Jeremy, Club Secretary.
Their model is both inspirational and replicable. “Other clubs should definitely think about doing this and making the most of the green energy that’s avaialble.” Jeremy, Club Secretary.