Communities are increasingly turning to renewable energy sources like the sun and wind to fulfil the rising need for energy by providing clean, dependable, and safe electricity. The good news is that many of the essential technologies needed to unleash the power of these renewable resources are already available. A growing proportion of solar energy is entering the mainstream because of the falling solar technology prices and new federal, state, and local policies together with an increase in competition among solar developers. Large-scale solar project builders and installers are known as solar developers. The typical domestic solar panel system has a power output of around 10 kilowatts (kW); in contrast, solar developers frequently work on projects with multiple megawatts (MW; 1 MW equals 1,000 kW) and hundreds or thousands of solar panels. Project installation of this magnitude is more difficult than installing solar panels on your house; in fact, many larger solar projects require years to create and operate. That’s not simply due to the additional equipment and installation needs; solar developers also need to be experts in a few other fields in order to carry out a project successfully. Once construction is complete, a developer may or may not decide to purchase and run the solar farm in the community where it is installed.
The duties of a community solar developer can vary depending on who controls the project. Developers are often responsible for defining the project’s scope, supervising its development, and connecting it to the grid. The property on which the project is built may be owned or leased by community solar developers. This is a crucial consideration for a landowner. You and the developer will be the parties to the lease agreement you sign for your property. The lease will transfer if the developer sells the project to a different business that will continue to be the farm’s owner and operator. Make sure to find out a developer’s long-term ownership goals before letting them lease your land. In order to “revolutionize energy with simple, strong solutions,” Energy Project Africa (EPA) was established. The Environmental Protection EPA is involved in scoping the project location, involving the neighbourhood, supervising the project’s construction (they work with contractors to execute the development), and connecting the project to the grid. They create storage projects in addition to community solar initiatives. The EPA typically rents land for its projects rather than maintaining project ownership. With a focus on dual-use projects like agrivoltaics, EPA creates community solar systems in African communities. In fact, roughly half of all projects created by EPA in Nigerian communities are dual-use. EPA has designed and constructed more than 150 MW of solar power.
Solar developers should be required to participate in a human rights training program that is designed to highlight the unique human rights risks associated with particular roles, functions, locations, and a company’s operations or projects.
Developers should investigate equity models with local communities, such as joint ventures, equity allocation, transfer of ownership over time, and other benefit-sharing, as part of their commitment to respecting communities’ rights, especially the rights of Indigenous Peoples. The corporation and the community may both profit from these strategies. For communities, they can provide benefits like a share of revenue streams, employment possibilities, technical knowledge transfer, skill building, and training while also strengthening their voice and participation and preserving connections to customary lands. Companies also gain from communities sharing their local expertise and methods, as well as from the chance to lower risk exposure by avoiding or minimizing negative effects on human rights.
A community-owned renewable energy project is built on people, and community support is essential to its success. Getting people on board with the project’s concept can help you create a base of supporters in the neighbourhood who will eventually turn into your investment base. What? Identify and recruit active members, find partner organizations, determine the level of support, inform the public about renewable energy sources, and create a database of supporters. How? Website, newsletters, street stalls, articles in the neighbourhood paper, guest speakers, open forums, site visits to other local renewable energy initiatives, seminars for creative problem-solving, events, parties, drop-in information sessions, etc. the following are the ways solar developers can maintain a good practice with the host communities:
- Early participation in community councils
Early involvement with important community groups can be very advantageous.
The parish councils in the majority of tiny, rural communities are active, and they are crucial for spreading messages. Other significant groups might also need to be involved in the process. Stakeholders who have received thorough briefings are better equipped to respond to queries from locals. The briefing procedure offers the chance to have early talks on potential community benefit packages as well as alert developers to any unexpected problems. Note any impact these stakeholders may have on the project’s site selection, mitigation procedures, or design. This data can be used as very helpful supporting information in a planning application.
- Project Email and Phone
Ensure that contacts can be made easily. This will make it more likely that any issues will be immediately resolved and addressed internally. Maintain a working record for monitoring issues and organizing responses to maximize learning opportunities and for reporting needs. The consultation report’s inclusion of the conversations log and testimonies is beneficial.
- Drop-In Activity
Public information drop-in events or displays are the most popular and thorough way to inform communities about proposed developments. These should offer a relaxed, non-threatening setting for exchanging ideas as well as a stage for an actual two-way conversation. Equally crucial is that developers use these events to listen as well as to transmit information. People who live nearby frequently have a wealth of local knowledge, which can be very helpful to assemble. The best thing to do before submitting a planning application is to have one or two informational events.
Select times that are most convenient for locals; it might be necessary to hold the same meeting twice to give everyone a chance to attend. Even when discussing technical topics, try to use an accessible setting and make sure the information is as simple to understand as feasible. Provide information in a variety of forms, such as large print, upon request. It is best to extend invites broadly, yet it can be difficult to attract enough attendees. Consult with them on who to invite if the planning authority and/or other important local stakeholders are open to it. Promote events well in advance, using media like local radio, social media, print media, bulletin boards, and letter drops, among others. Send a reminder invitation closer to the event if that would be useful.
Conduct initial consultations with all impacted communities to determine the best way to engage and when to engage. Also discuss the procedures for recording each step and activity of engagement (using participation lists, photos, videos, audio recordings, and other tools with the community’s express consent).
Avoid exerting any pressure on the community, inform all community members about the project in detail, accurately, completely, and easily accessible ways (scope, timeline, impacts, benefits, grievance mechanisms, remedies), and ensure that they have access to independent sources of information, technical support, and advice, permit iterative discussions, revise proposals in response to community feedback, and respect their decisions, even when they say “no” to a project.
Facilitate community access to independent legal and technical assistance; negotiate project terms and conditions with the community (including appropriate remedies and clear plans to sufficiently rehabilitate the project site and properly restore tenure rights to Indigenous Peoples and other local communities at completion); and, if the community is amenable, develop a written agreement. The representatives of the community should be helped to achieve the technical expertise necessary to take part in governance decisions, provided rights in the event of a minority stake, and shielded from the dilution of their shares or representation to increase the likelihood of their success. Independent technical and legal aid may also be helpful to the community and its leaders in promoting their rights and interests. During the consultation, negotiation, and implementation of any such scheme, special emphasis should be paid to minimizing power disparities between the firm and the community.
Obtain the assent of the community before agreeing to any agreements with the proper representative(s); obtain the necessary government approvals, and prepare for ongoing community discussions and negotiations. Implement the agreement(s) (including any agreed-upon remedies) and create participative systems for continuous communication, monitoring, and conflict resolution.
Adopt and put into effect a policy for human rights advocates.
Threats, intimidation, and violence against human rights defenders, especially local leaders and members, are at the centre of many charges of violations of human rights against wind and solar energy corporations. The understanding and consideration of this particular issue in business procedures and decision-making should be guaranteed by a human rights defender policy. This policy or statement should clearly indicate its attitude on respect for and non-retaliation against human rights defenders and their activities, as well as how it will be implemented. It may stand alone from a more comprehensive human rights policy (or be integrated within it). The strategy should be developed in collaboration with all relevant parties, including civil society organizations, other local communities, and human rights advocates who are Indigenous Peoples or who represent them.
EPA creates community solar systems in African communities. In fact, roughly half of all projects created by EPA in Nigerian communities are dual-use. EPA has designed and constructed more than 150 MW of solar power. EPA Community Solar Marketplace is designed to allow you to explore, compare, and sign up for projects near you. Our network operations centre provides client service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a company that takes responsibility for monitoring operations and maintaining solar rooftop upkeep, we give in-depth business insights in the form of value-added services to our corporate customers and industry-based clients. Because of the need for regular and optimal solar system administration, African communities and businesses must rely on the EPA’s solar energy Operation & Maintenance (O&M) competence. At EPA, we do high-quality O&M with our engineers, who have received extensive solar maintenance training and are well-trained to maintain solar systems and make necessary repairs. Thanks to years of field training, the EPA undertakes automatic as well as efficient system assessments to ensure that solar power facilities are assessed in compliance with international standards. Our continual monitoring and inspections ensure timely action when your solar system isn’t operating as it should. Our O&M staff are in charge of all aspects of solar power plant maintenance, ensuring that the plant functions smoothly and that our clients have access to power at all times.
Energy Project Africa is a leading renewable energy business in Lagos, Nigeria with expertise in the procurement of energy equipment, energy audit and feasibility solutions of mini-grid and solar farms. Supply by EPA provides solar products and equipment for corporate and institutional clients for project and operational needs. If you need a partner with hands-on local expertise in the renewable energy space or any of our bespoke solutions/services, kindly visit:
https://www.energy-projects.africa/ourservices/corporate-sourcing-and-procurement/ to learn more.