On the roofs of houses in the village of Penshaw near Sunderland, what look like dark glass windows shimmer against the skyline. They are PV solar panels. Kevin Garrett, who has lived in social housing in the area for the past four years, had them installed on his property in 2012. He also had solid wall insulation put in, and in just two years his energy bill has been slashed by more than half. During the day, his family benefit from free power. More than 27,000 panels have been fitted onto 2,000 homes in Sunderland owned by the social housing provider Gentoo Group. A new £10.1m deal has been struck with a pension investor allowing up to 3,000 more homes to benefit. A social enterprise, Empower Community, helped to secure the investment. Managing partner Alex Grayson says the investment will be paid back over the next two decades with money made from selling energy back to the grid through the government’s feed-in tariff scheme. Any profit is then split between Gentoo and the community, and used to fund projects such as running a eco-friendly village hall or operating a local food co-operative.