The Tale of the VegVan and its Solar Panels

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I’m tempted to call this the Solar Panel Saga because it has been a full 2 years (at least!) since we first planned to install solar PV on the VegVan and only now has this dream come to fruition! When we initially planned the installation, a small group of hugely generous supporters came together to raise the funds needed. We are so grateful to Cultivate members and friends Beaudry Knock and Monique Mikhail, alongside Green Accountancy, our brilliant accountants, and R-Eco, the renewable energy cooperative, who have put a huge amount of time, energy and the solar panels themselves into this project. The panels will not only keep our battery healthy and able to power the till and lights, but will also enable us to power a small fridge on the van so we can sell select refrigerated products.

So now, finally, Adrian from R-Eco has fitted the panel on the VegVan’s roof, a charge controller inside the van and wired the whole circuit in to our battery, as well as tidying up our existing wiring. He has now given us the green light to start using the electrics again and to sort out the fridge! What could possibly have taken so long you ask? I don’t like to point the finger but our insurance company took many months to digest the concept of solar PV on a van. It has of course been done before, even ambulances in certain parts of the UK now have Solar PV on their roofs, but despite numerous safety certificates, electrical diagrams and example photos, the underwriters just weren’t convinced. Then one day in late 2014 we got an email out of the blue saying that yes, we could go ahead with the installation!

Our lovely VegVan is now fully charged and will soon be able to bring an even broader range of local produce to our Oxford customers, all sustainably produced and with super low food miles!

Here is a bit about R-Eco:

R-Eco is a unique renewable energy workers’ cooperative based in Bristol, Truro and Oxford. It is a truly eco business from the inside out and is dedicated to fuelling a move away from our reliance on fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy. R-Eco works with homeowners, businesses and community groups to install solar and other forms of eco-energy generation and improve the energy efficiency of buildings. On being a workers’ coop they say, ‘we are all driven by the idea that there is a better way to organise the workplace and businesses than the standard model. So at R-ECO everyone earns very similar wages – there is not a huge difference between salaries, and everyone has the opportunity to become a ‘member’. This gives each worker a right to own part of the company (hold share capital) and to vote on all important decisions. There are no outside investors to take the profits away, so profits go back to workers. The result is that everyone is motivated to do the best job they can, because they will get a share of the profit.’

Find out more about Green Accountancy:

Green Accountancy is both an accountant and an environmental consultancy that encourages and helps small businesses, charities and social enterprises to reduce their environmental impact. They have developed a system called Carbon Accounting for Smaller Entities (CASE).  This is a method of accounting for carbon that has been developed particularly with small businesses, charities and not for profit organisations in mind. They say, ‘the objective of the Carbon Accounting for Smaller Entities is to enable small entities to prepare simple, robust and consistent environmental reports. We recommend use of this procedure for all small entities with turnover up to £6.5M. This includes companies of all types, charities, partnerships and sole traders.’