Community funded solar projects have really taken off in recent years. The benefits are plentiful – from reducing residents' electricity bills to evoking a true sense of community to minimising carbon output. From small-scale installations in Brixton to acquiring the largest solar field in the UK, co-operatives are certainly at the forefront of the solar revolution.

Bath and West Community Energy (BCWE) recently won an award for its efforts. The community group won the titles of 'Best Community Initiative' at the South West Green Energy Awards.

The awards were organised by industry group Regen SW and over 130 companies entered the competition. The awards were created to showcase and celebrate the companies, projects and individuals that are at the forefront of the region’s growing renewable energy industry.

Merlin Hyman, chief executive of Regen SW, commented: "Since we launched the awards in 2004 we have seen exceptional growth in the south west sustainable energy industry.

"From a fledgling industry in nine years ago, we now have world-leading renewable energy companies in the south west and a thriving industry that currently employs more than 10,000 people and has the potential to provide employment for 30,000 by 2020."

Since its launch last year, BCWE has raised £722,000 that has been used to install several solar panel clusters and deliver energy efficiency projects in local schools. The group aims to generate five megawatts of electricity within four years. One of its more immediate aims is to develop and finance 1.5 MW of solar– enough electricity to power 1000 houses.

The money was raised by some 200 investors from the local community. The group has also managed to acquire a £1 million loan from Scottish and Southern Energy.

"All of our finalists are exemplars in their field and leading the UK’s renewable energy drive. The high-quality work they carry out shows just how quickly the sustainable energy sector is developing in the south west and it demonstrates what a strong position the region is in," added Mr Hyman.