Community renewable schemes

MIddelgrunden wind turbine coop, Denmark_photo from UK Coops

Germany and Denmark both generate around 25% of their renewable energy from community-owned and cooperative schemes. So let’s get cracking in Calderdale.

Calderdale Council support for community renewables

Calderdale Council’s Calderdale’s Energy Future (CEF) strategy, which came into effect on 1st April 2012, proposes that the Council and its partners in the Strategy will support community renewable schemes by:

  • aiming to find money and provide support (CEF Strategy p24)
  • supporting a number of exemplar community renewable schemes as a pilot for future projects (CEF Strategy ps 18 & 28)
  • supporting community-owned schemes like renewable energy installations, district heating schemes and woodland development” (CEF Strategy, p23)
  • identifying suitable sites and providing support and guidance for getting community renewable schemes up and running.(ps 23 & 18)

To find out what this all means in practice, the best person to ask is probably Emma Appleton, the Calderdale Council Environmental Officer.  Or you can always ask your Calderdale Councillor.

For the bulk of planned new renewable energy generation, Calderdale Council aims at opening up the Borough to large scale commercial wind farms and large scale biomass combined heat and power generation.

Existing community renewable projects in the Upper Calder Valley

Pennine Community Power – a Community Benefit Society

Blackshaw Environmental Action Team’s (BEAT) offshoot Pennine Community Power has set up a 10kW community wind turbine that will generate enough electricity for 3-8 households and produce an annual income for the community of £4K-£14K/year for 20 years. Pennine Community Power (PCP) is a Community Benefit Society that received  received a £30K grant to part-fund the installation of the wind turbine, and raised the remaining £30K through a Community Share Offer.

Community Benefit Societies are:

incorporated industrial and provident societies (IPS) that conduct business for the benefit of their community. Profits are not distributed among members, or external shareholders, but returned to the community.(Business Link)

For anyone interested in launching & marketing community share offers, there’s useful info here.

Power from the Landscape

Power from the Landscape is based at Hebden Bridge Alternative Technology Centre. It aims to:

“provide information, advice and practical help to potential micro hydro site owners/groups (and interested parties) that enable them to develop plans for micro hydro generation in the South Pennines.”

Power from the Landscape is part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, to install turbines at 8 sites in the area.

Feed in Tariffs and Renewable Heat Incentive for schools and communities

Schools and community renewable energy schemes are eligible for Feed in Tariff (FiT) payments for the electricity they produce – although the UK coalition government put a limit of 50kW on renewable installations that are eligible for FiTs, making it uneconomic for some planned solar electricity (pv) schemes for schools and communities to go ahead.  

The Renewable Heat Incentive is kind of like the FIT, except it will be paid for out of public funding rather than by the energy companies, and it is a subsidy for biomass heat and power. It will pay people for producing heat and power from biomass (eg new and waste wood, energy crops, waste from farms, industry, households etc). However, many people and organisations dispute the usefulness and value of biomass heat and power  for various reasons, including:

  • the length of time it takes for new trees to absorb carbon emissions from burning biomass
  • the effect on food production of using land for biomass production
  • air pollution and nuisance from smells and smoke from burning biomass.
Calderdale Council is installing biomass boilers in six Calderdale primary schools.

(A Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive will be available soon for householders who heat their homes and water using renewable heat technologies like solar thermal, air or ground source heat pumps, wood pellet boilers etc. It is mostly aimed at households off the gas main, although it’s not limited to those households.)

If you’re interested in setting up a community renewable scheme…

The Coop is carrying out a research project geared to providing the best support for community renewable schemes. There are already 43 community renewable cooperatives in the UK, and the Coop Bank is committed to investing significant amounts in renewable energy by 2013.
The Guardian’s cooperatives and mutuals hub has a lot of interesting information about the idea that the future of renewable energy in UK may be community-owned

You can download a free copy of the Rough Guide to renewable energy.

This is what you need to do if you want to set up a community renewable scheme:

  • find a site with enough wind, water flow or sun to generate the amount of energy you need (the pre-feasibility survey stage)
  • unless the community group already owns the land, find out who owns it and if they’ll give you permission (this is the stage the Dog Bottom micro hydro project is currently at)
  • talk to the neighbours and find out what they think about the idea
  • find out about connecting to the National Grid to sell your surplus energy and get Feed in Tariff payments
  • find out if the site is protected for environmental, heritage, scientific or any other reasons
  • find out if there’s suitable access for installing and maintaining the generators
  • get planning permission
  • find out if there are any other limitations or problems at the site
  • arrange finance and assess the risks

Elsewhere – Bristol’s community renewables revolving loan fund 

As well as its new Council-run Energy Services Company, Bristol City Council has a Community Energy Catalyst Fund to support the development of community energy and sustainability projects. It’s a £50K revolving loan fund which helps community energy and sustainability projects with initial costs like feasibility studies, technical analysis and legal documentation.

2 thoughts on “Community renewable schemes

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