The residents of Balcombe, the small West Sussex village best known for being at the centre of a hectic 2013 protest against UK fracking in the surrounding area, have launched their own renewable energy co-operative in an effort to generate their own power through community-owned facilities.
The co-operative, REPOWERBalcombe, plans on installing £300,000 worth of PV installations on the rooftops of local buildings this spring. When operational, these PV facilities will produce enough energy to power 7.5% of the entire town’s electricity demand.
REPOWERBalcombe has already signed off on its first project – a 19kW PV installation that will place on top of a cowshed at the nearby Grange Farms.
In exchange for hosting the project, Grange Farms will be awarded electricity at a 33% discount for the next 25 years.
The money necessary to install this project, £33,000, was raised by the co-op’s founding members and their friends, with capital repaid in yearly instalments.
REPOWERBalcombe is also in the process of potentially adding five more projects to its portfolio in the coming months. The company hopes to open its first full community share issue of about £300,000 to local investors before summer.
If all six sites are successfully installed, the combined energy generated will be enough to power 60 of the village’s 760 homes. Plans are already in place to develop a second wave of projects later this year with the intent of powering the remaining 700 households.
The debate over fracking has become a heated in the UK, as many citizens have shown a preference to solar energy over fracking, while a multitude of Conservative MPs, including Prime Minister David Cameron, have lobbied in support for fracking, stating that the controversial extraction technique could help lower household energy bills.