Rob Richley, head of the Wedmore Community Power Co-operative, spoke to the BBC in the wake of the announcements from the government on Thursday that solar power would be joining onshore wind farms in subsidy cuts in years to come.
Richley told the BBC that creating a sustainable future in which the supply of energy to keep the lights on is high enough is all about making a real move to bring energy production to a local level.
He added that “people see the sense in it”.
Local energy is ‘more secure’
Investors may be keen to put their money into community-owned projects, especially with worries from the National Grid that supply may not be enough to meet demand if the UK should have a particularly bad winter as early as 2015.
Richley’s solar array cost £800,000 to construct, and it was paid for by asking people from around the local area to buy shares. Power from it is fed straight into the grid and used by the villagers throughout the year.
He said that investors could expect to make 9% returns, with more than half of those who have bought into the system living in the local area.
Richley added that he thinks the future of projects like his is secure, saying: “The government has been very supportive of community projects like ours. This [subsidy cut] is aimed at the mega-farms.”
Glasto owner backs community energy
Support for community also came from the owner of Worthy Farm and Glastonbury Festival, Michael Eavis, who has long been a supporter of greener energy.
He put solar panels on the top of his cow shed in 2010 in a move that made it the largest privately-owned array in the country.
“It felt like I had to make a serious statement about energy. I can’t believe it’s worked so well. It’s so efficient,” he told the BBC.
However, he added that it is important to make sure that renewables do not tarnish the looks of the countryside across the UK.