Technology: solar photovoltaic (PV) panels

Location: Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire

CARES funding: £19,488.70 capital grant

Date installed/operational: September 2021


Founded in 2006, CentreStage is a registered Scottish charity based in Kilmarnock. It operates with an ethos that anyone, regardless of age, background or experience, can gain life changing social benefits through active participation in the arts. It welcomes more than 2,500 participants from across Ayrshire to its projects and creative learning classes every week.

After completing a Community Led Asset Transfer, the charity now operates from the site of the former Kilmarnock Academy in the town’s Elmbank Drive. The organisation is currently converting the former B-listed school into ‘CentreStage Village’ which will allow it to deliver all its core activities from a single location rather than the seven sites it operated from previously. When complete, the site will include a 300-seat auditorium, performance and rehearsal spaces, a sports hall and gymnasium, café/bar and commercial kitchen, childcare facilities and office spaces.

The organisation was keen to ensure that the building, built in 1898, was not only accessible to all visitors but was energy efficient with low carbon emissions. It contacted Zero Waste Scotland (now Business Energy Scotland) for advice. An advisor carried out a site assessment in April 2020 to identify improvements that could be made and advise if any renewable technologies could be installed.

Zero Waste Scotland provided a tailored report which recommended:

  • installing a 20kW solar photovoltaic (PV) array
  • upgrading the gas boilers in the main building, listed building and annex spaces
  • upgrading the gas boilers in the sports faculty
  • installing a biomass district heating system.

Project aims and objectives

The project’s main objective was to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) array at CentreStage Village.

Lynne Simmers, financial controller at Centrestage, explains: “following the report we explored ways to fund the long-term positive environmental opportunities that were identified in the report to help us create a low carbon environment. We had already secured funding from Transport Scotland for three electric vehicle charging points (and are considering a further six) and planned to fit LED lighting across the site.

“We identified CARES [the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme] as a well aligned funder for our plans to install a solar PV array and applied for CARES funding to help cover the costs. The solar PV array would help to reduce the site’s electricity costs and lower its environmental impact, and in the event of any excess generation, this could be exported back to the grid.”

Outcomes and achievements

CentreStage was supported by Local Energy Scotland’s local development officers to apply for funding and for advice on contacting Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) registered installers.

Lynne says “through discussions with installers we found that the site could easily accommodate a large solar PV system and we aimed to install a 50kW solar PV array. Installers advised that a 50 to 54kW system could generate approximately 44,050kWh a year which would cover an estimated 27-28% of our annual electricity use.”

With the support of their designated local development officer, the organisation used the framework of contractors to contact several installers for quotes.

Lynne says “We wanted to ensure fairness and value for money so our selection process considered value for money, price, timescales, accreditation, and experience of installing a system of this size. We received quotations from Turner Services, Emtec and Absolute Wind and Solar. The quotes ranged from £40,000 to £44,000 for various scales of solar PV installation. We identified Emtec as our preferred installer and, following site visits, they designed a 44kW solar PV system.”

Through support from Local Energy Scotland and Emtec, it was identified that both planning consent and a building warrant were required from East Ayrshire Council. This also meant that a structural survey was necessary, and because of the installation’s scale, a grid connection was also required.

Armour Construction was appointed as the full time, onsite project manager and design team, and FLN was appointed as the mechanical and electrical contractor. FLN oversaw the solar PV contractor throughout the installation and commissioning process which incorporated all health and safety procedures. Centrestage was supported by Local Energy Scotland to ensure a turnkey service from the solar PV installers.

The installation of the solar PV array was completed in September 2021. From this time until May 2022, it generated 15,364KWh. Lynne adds that “we anticipate this to rise significantly over the coming summer months. This has already helped to reduce our electricity bills, which means we are less reliant on trust and grant funding.”

Solar panels on the roof at CentreStage village

Lessons learned

Lynne says that the organisation experienced several challenges with the installation. She explains that the building warrant application was initially rejected but “we received great support from Emtec who worked with the local building control department to come up with a solution for approval.

“We initially aimed for a 50kW PV array, but this was reduced to 44kW because of the roof access. The southeast roof of the building could accommodate a larger scale installation, but after we realised that access was complicated and expensive, we decided to install the array on the northwest facing roof at a reduced scale instead.”

Challenges caused by the pandemic also meant that there were delays in the overall refurbishment project which mean that the solar PV installation did not run to its original schedule.

Lynne says “our charity is a member of the Social Innovation Partnership which brings organisations together. We regularly and continually share information and learnings across all aspects of our work. This includes our capital expenditure project and we have included the installation of our solar PV array in this sharing learning as we believe this is a model that can be replicated across Scotland.”

Find out more about CentreStage.