Message from Chair
Government should be walking the talk on community energy
If you’ve read my recent blog, you’ll know that I have been inspired by the work of Community Energy England (CEE) and its exceptional line-up of informative events during this year’s Community Energy Fortnight. As the days went on, I was struck by the enormous potential of our sector to deliver wide ranging benefits to the communities in which they operate and the need for the government to put more, not less, weight behind getting new projects off the ground. According to CEE’s State of the Sector report, the community energy industry engaged with over 200,000 people across the UK during 2021. As a collective, the 495 active community energy organisations installed 7.5MW of new renewable energy capacity, and combined energy efficiency interventions saved the nation a whopping £3.35 million on its energy bills.
In addition to these impressive energy credentials, community organisations like WWCE continued to benefit local economies and community groups alike. An average of 70% of community energy organisational expenditure was spent locally last year, amounting to just under £15m being directly used to support local economies, while community benefit funds like the one we operate distributed £1.35m to worthwhile initiatives. Knowing this makes the fact that the government seems reticent to give the sector the backing it so richly deserves all the harder to fathom. As a result of ever decreasing support, the report also revealed that the overall rate of growth in the community energy sector has slowed. Given the deepening energy crisis, I hope that this trend can be reversed but I fear that, without investment and clear policy from the government, those who would like to harness the many benefits of community energy will be reluctant to take necessary steps to do so.
Established organisations such as our own will of course continue with our plans to expand no matter the political backdrop, developing and delivering exceptional renewable schemes with the backing of our members and local communities. Indeed, WWCE continues to pursue new opportunities at Petersfinger and Silverwood School which we expect to make significant progress in the coming months. But, if the government were to turn the support it expounds into tangible policies, we would start to see sustained growth across the board, and in turn a far brighter picture for the future of the nation’s economy and ecology would emerge...
Julian Barlow WWCE Chair Performance Overview Getting in shape for summer
WWCE's solar sites performed well over the second quarter of the year, with generation slightly exceeding projections. May and June were both good irradiance months, surpassing irradiance and generation projections and compensating for a somewhat disappointing April. Overall, a solid spring performance which means we’re in good shape going into the summer months...
Lancaster research leads to new guidance for solar farms Research supported by WWCE has sparked new biodiversity advice from Solar Energy UK
In March this year a PhD student from Lancaster University, in collaboration with the University of Reading and Low Carbon, published a paper looking at how solar park management and design could boost pollinator populations. You can view an animation summarising their work here. As part of that research, author Hollie Blaydes and her team visited WWCE’s Braydon Manor solar park to better understand the current picture and inform their modelling in order to make recommendations about the most effective ways to increase numbers. As a result of the study, Solar Energy UK has recently released its Natural Capital Best Practice Guidance on how to increase biodiversity at all stages of a solar farm’s lifecycle. It provides an outline of how to deliver solar farms, from site design through to decommissioning with an emphasis on promoting environments which provide natural capital, biodiversity and agriculture, alongside green energy supply. We are proud that WWCE’s approach to managing our parks at Braydon and Chelworth follows many of the principles recommended. For example, at Chelworth we have proactively provided native pollinator habitat and built nesting areas for ground-nesting bees and other insects. Meanwhile, our pond at Chelworth provides an important source of water and we are actively encouraging the development of wildflower meadow plant species to support pollinator foraging at both sites. You can read Solar Energy UK’s full Natural Capital Best Practice Guidance, here. A new deal for Braydon Communities for Renewables complete negotiations for new grid contract
With volatile energy markets worldwide, the WWCE board saw an opportunity to renegotiate the rate at which the energy our solar projects generate is exported back to the grid. Acting on behalf of WWCE, the team at Communities for Renewables (CfR) has been busy behind the scenes doing just that, and we’re delighted to report that it was able to agree a 175% increase on the base case FIT export rate. With the site performing well, the new terms should mean more funds are available to pump back into WWCE programmes next year. A great result all round!
Community Fund News Would you like to help support community projects in Wiltshire?
The Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy Community Fund panel is looking for a new member to represent WWCE – could it be you? The WWCE Community Fund is created from surplus WWCE income and donations from WWCE members. The Fund is distributed as grants to voluntary and community groups throughout Wiltshire to support projects whose aims align with the following WWCE objectives: to support wildlife conservation, to mitigate climate change, carbon reduction (including local food, transport, waste products etc) and to reduce fuel poverty. The panel holds up to four meetings a year to allocate the Fund, so if you are interested in being part of the team, please contact Jessica Thimbleby at email@example.com or call 07568 231015. Three local initiatives pick up WWCE Community Fund grants
Building on its great work during the pandemic and beyond, at the most recent WWCE Community Fund meeting the panel selected three more worthy groups who will each receive grants to support their local programmes. Cycle Chippenham will be allocated funding to support a number of its upcoming projects, including the creation of a new cycle route which will take cyclists away from busy roads. Meanwhile, the Warminster Toad Patrol will also be protecting the vulnerable from traffic as it continues recording and rescuing amphibians through the Smallbrook Toad Patrol project. Finally, SPLASH/Youth Action Wiltshire will be receiving vital funding which will enable the group to facilitate environmental activities for young carers across the county during the school holidays. Keep an eye on the WWCE News page for more information about these fantastic schemes, or to find out how to apply for funding for your own sustainable project. Events are back - Volunteer with WWCE After a Covid-induced hiatus, community engagement is back on the agenda
Jessica Thimbleby chatted to visitors about WWCE at the Devizes Sustainability Fair With in-person events now back in full swing, WWCE is making the most of being able to get out into the communities we serve. We’re taking stands at a number of local events and would welcome the support of members keen to talk to others about the benefits of investing in community-owned renewable energy schemes. Could you spare some time to join us at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s ‘Country Comes to Town’ event in Trowbridge on Saturday 17th September? Please contact our Carbon Reduction Champion Jessica Thimbleby at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07568 2310215 if you could lend a hand at this, or any other event. If you have any further questions about WWCE, please always feel free to contact us at email@example.com Join our online community by following us on LinkedIn here. You can also now keep up-to-date with WWCE on Facebook, follow us here.