SUN SHINES ON COMMUNITIES – Solar Farm in Shropshire

282

Posted 4 months ago

Solar energy in Shropshire is shining a glowing spotlight on how local communities benefit from new green technology after eco supporters bought a solar farm.

The Shropshire solar farm has joined forces with four others with the joint aim to give around £20 million to green energy projects nationwide over their 18 year or more lifespan.

The innovative scheme involves the UK’s largest transfer of renewable energy assets into community hands, says Howard Betts, of Shropshire and Telford Community Energy (STCE), which bought Twemlows solar farm, near Whitchurch, in December and powers the equivalent of 3,400 homes.

: Twemlows solar farm, near Whitchurch, Shropshire.

Community organisations across Shropshire, which have received around £60,000 over the past three years, praised the scheme.

“We’re a small community and it takes a lot to raise this kind of money. Thank goodness for the Twemlows community fund,” said Rose Aston, chair of Longnor Village Hall, near Church Stretton, which received £1,000 for insulation.

“We did the work ourselves putting in 90sqm of thick layers of Rockwool. It’s made a world of difference to the hall. We only have to put the heating on for an hour then we can turn it off as the hall retains the heat. We also insulated below the floor. By doing both, the acoustics have significantly improved too.”  

Jodie Rudd, manager of community owned Festival Drayton Centre, Market Drayton, which received £4,000 towards solar panels, said: “The grant from STCE was a key contribution to the funding that allowed us to install our solar panels. They’ve generated nearly 10,000kWh to date and substantially cut our electricity bills. 

“This helps us continue to provide so many local services such as our coffee shop, community cinema and a wide range of family and leisure activities. We were pleased to show a short video clip about STCE’s share offer before our films last year.” 

STCE joined Gower Power, Kent Community Energy, Wight Community Energy and Yealm Community Energy to form Community Energy Together (CET) where investors bought their local solar farms to get a target six per cent interest, while donating money to good causes.

The idea originated with funding in 2017 from Power to Change and Big Society Capital buying seven UK solar farms so that they could benefit local communities. 

Shropshire and Telford Community Energy, established in 2020, now has 126 investors and distribute £20,000 in community benefits each year to local communities with plans to expand.

“We bought a solar farm”…some of the Shropshire investors.

Groups to benefit so far also include Rushbury village hall granted £4,000 for new energy efficient windows and doors; Park Lane Centre in Telford has new water butts and low energy lighting; Lightfoot Enterprises, of Bishops Castle, which initiates projects to combat climate change received £4,920 to carry out home energy surveys while Harmer Hill village hall, Shrewsbury, haven’t paid an electricity bill since installing solar panels, with £1,000 contributed from STCE. Shrewsbury United Reformed Church is being helped with secondary glazing.

CET Director Dave Green said: “We’ve been working for the past three years to get to this position. STCE has come a long way from our standing start in 2020 to taking ownership of Twemlows solar farm. We have plans for more community owned energy including a wind turbine and heat network in Bishop’s Castle.”