I have been kicking around an idea for a NI solar co-operative aimed at supporting DIY installation of solar thermal (domestic water heating). Here's how it might work: A few experienced solar people A & B (founding/initial members) help out person C with their DIY solar install. In recompense, person C commits to provide xxx hours assistance on the next collective install. On the next few installations, say for persons D & E, founders A & B need to put in less time because person C is now helping D & E out, with only the difficult bits being done by A & B. Eventually the collective grows into a group of people well versed in the easiest and least expensive way to install solar thermal.
If participants such as C, D, or E don't have any DIY capability, say because of age or disability, & can't therefore help out on solar installations, they could always trade time or other skills with the collective instead.
Now what about the hardware and the financial cost? Well, a collective member having their own system installed would have to source their own hardware - the collective would be there primarily to help with installation and to advise on the various hardware & procurement options, and not to otherwise subsidise. At the bottom end of the scale, I know of solar panels made from old domestic radiators and other DIY flat panel variations which, whilst entailing minimal outlay, are rather labour intensive and not always very efficient. Systems using professional ready-made solar panels can however be DIY installed with a capital outlay of as little as perhaps £700? depending on the house, its existing plumbing, and one's hot water usage.
Anyway, end result is a group of collective members all with their own (assisted) DIY installs who are collectively able to assist the next person with their DIY install. A few years ago there was a London Solar Collective where their DIY-supervised installations even attracted grants - we may eventually be able to talk DETI and/or Action Renewables into assisting with the capital costs in a similar way?
Having recently DIY installed a solar evacuated tube setup at my house, and shortly going on one of the carbonzero courses covering the other main solar thermal technologies, if there's any interest out there in this proposal, I am happy to get the ball rolling as person A (or B). Any other interested parties?
All comments/suggestions gratefully received