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Community-owned solar ‘is the way forward’

Solar power owned through community schemes is the best way to make sure the lights stay on in winter, an expert in the field has claimed

Local energy to provide 'sustainable future'

Local energy to provide ‘sustainable future’

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.

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  • A49ZT

    Can “property ownership” rules be tweaked so that if a couple of thousand locals identify a factory-roof which has south facing slopes or a big flat area, and sign a petition that they’d like community owned solar to go up, there is a low cost way of the factory allowing the community to build medium to large scale solar on its roof, in preference to ground level greenfield solar. One should expect there to be a roof rent comparable to field rent to go with this, so what is the right price for that? It should decrease the cost of a solar project to go through the pre-existing factory 3-phase mains connection, if professional electricians ok it, and it should decrease the cost of daytime electricity for the factory to have its local generation. In some cases combined heat&power might be the most sensible heating plant next time the factory boiler reaches end-of-life. What do we need so that the choices made are the “most sensible”.

    Should these non-greenfield medium to large scale solar projects have their subsidy cut as much as greenfield solar?