Technologies: solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and battery storage
Location: Strontian, Highland
CARES funding: £11,388 capital grant
Date installed/operational: March 2023


Sunart Community Company (SCC) is a registered Scottish charity based in Strontian, on the north shore of Loch Sunart in the highlands. Its mission statement is “Keeping Sunart a great place to live, work and visit”. As part of this, it was keen to reduce its environmental impact and carbon footprint.

SCC owns Oakwood Tourism and Crafts, a community-owned shop supporting local arts and crafts businesses in return for volunteering and a modest commission on each sale. It also acts as the local tourist information centre.

Aims and objectives

SCC wanted to install solar panels at Oakwood Tourism and Crafts, the only building that it owns, to generate its own electricity and reduce the building’s energy use and running costs. By installing a storage battery too, it would be able to maximise the use of the renewable energy generated by the solar panels. An added benefit would be to reduce the building’s carbon footprint.

Outcomes and achievements

In 2022, SCC applied to the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) for support. It received a grant of £11,388 towards the cost of installing solar panels and a battery.

The SCC successfully installed:

  • a 4kw solar photovoltaic system
  • a 5kw battery storage.

Tony Burke, Director of SCC, said: “Being a small charity, we would not have been able to afford the capital investment necessary to install such a solar panel installation. With the assistance of an 80% capital grant from CARES and a matching 20% grant from SSE Renewable’s Highland Sustainable Development Fund, we were able to proceed with the project.”

“The solar panels and battery storage was fully installed in early March and, for several weeks, we used no grid electricity at all.

“Reducing our electricity is important for our financial sustainability because it enables us to increase the profits generated by the shop. These are re-invested in the charity to help it deliver on its mission supporting other community initiatives. With savings likely to be in the order of more than £100 per month, this will have a significant impact on net profits and therefore contribution to running costs.”

“The installation of a battery pack has been key to our savings in that it enabled the night-load to be covered by the battery, which would then be recharged during the day while also satisfying the day-time load. This battery pack significantly improved the benefits from the installation.”

Solar panels o

Lessons learned

Tony says that “one unexpected hurdle was the request to apply for a building warrant for the installation; this was achieved relatively quickly. However, the delay and cost were not anticipated.”

Tony adds that “the technical assistance from CARES was invaluable in guiding us through the project because they have facilitated many similar projects and were able to highlight aspects where other projects had encountered problems.

“For example, the project was delayed initially due to a certification issue with the original supplier. As part of the move to another supplier, CARES were very understanding and helpful.”

Published July 2023.