Harveys Brewery could become a community-owned solar power station

OVESCO Limited, the industrial and provident society for community benefit, set up to raise capital via community share issue to invest in local renewable power projects, and Harveys Brewery are currently examining the feasibility of installing a 98kW solar photovoltaic array on the roof of Harveys’ main storage and distribution warehouse in Daveys Lane, Lewes.

If it goes ahead, this ground-breaking installation would turn the building into one of the first solar power stations in the country – and continue to build on Harveys’ reputation as an environmentally responsible company. The 544 photovoltaic (PV) panels would generate at least 72,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of renewable electricity each year.

The two companies have already submitted a planning application to Lewes District Council, and they are currently in discussion about the potential benefits to both organisations and the local community. The system, once completed, would have virtually no visual impact on the surroundings, but would feed green electricity into the surrounding area.

Under the proposal being explored, individuals would be able to invest in the project through OVESCO Limited, which is an IPS (a not-for-profit organisation for community benefit).  If the discussions between the two parties conclude positively, an invitation to invest will be distributed in the coming weeks, laying out the details of the offer.

Both parties will of course have to consider the ongoing feed-in tariff review, which was announced at the beginning of February. Chris Rowland at OVESCO said, “Any review of 50kW+ FiTs would have a serious effect on our business model for future projects, as it may not be financially worth undertaking a community share issue for projects under 50kW, especially for groups starting up and trying to become financially independent of grants.”

“I realise and understand the concern that the FIT will be used for large-scale field PV, but I believe only a few of these projects are going through the planning process and even fewer have a via able grid connection at this moment in time. Surely it is far too early to review the FIT and 50kW is far to low a threshold to review?”

The Ouse Valley Energy Services Company Ltd was established in 2007 to encourage energy-saving practices in domestic, business and public buildings, and to create local generation of non-polluting energy. In 2010 the company directors founded OVESCo Limited:

• To help individuals reduce their energy bills and their carbon footprint

• To contribute to local and national CO2 reduction targets

• To generate electricity from green sources (solar, wind, etc)

• To make jobs by supporting local firms to gain the benefit of this important new market

• To reduce UK dependence on imported fuels

• To assist local people whose houses are not suited to existing forms of renewable generation to make their homes more energy efficient.

Over the past three years OVESCO has focussed on small-scale projects to generate renewable power for the local community. These projects range from around 25kW – 250kW in size. Having run a local grant scheme on behalf of Lewes District Council for domestic renewables since 2007, OVESCO has seen that changes in Government policy have dramatic effects on the growth of a UK renewables. Having finally stopped giving grants via the Low Carbon Building Programme, Government introduced the FiT and is due to introduce the RHI. This meant we at OVESCO altered our business model to focus on community PV projects.

www.ovesco.co.uk