Quarterly Newsletter, Winter 22/23
24 January 2023 Message from Chair Happy New Year from our Chair, Julian Barlow
Welcome all to a new and exciting year for Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy! 2022 was turbulent to say the least – a year during which we witnessed the outbreak of war in eastern Europe and the passing of the only Monarch many of us have ever known, while no fewer than three Prime Ministers attempted to steer us through the gathering storm. Despite some questionable decision making from those in power, here in Wiltshire WWCE was able to forge ahead and had a hugely successful 12 months. The energy price boom allowed us to renegotiate our power payment rates, resulting in a significant improvement in finances, and we also embarked upon an exciting programme of activity which has the potential to reduce carbon and improve the fortunes of wildlife going forward, in accordance with our wider mission. Of course, whilst 2022 was fantastic for us as an organisation I am all too aware that we do not work in isolation. It has been distressing to witness the prevalence of fuel poverty across Wiltshire, particularly amongst the elderly. Given this troubling backdrop, I was delighted that we were able to launch our ‘Keeping Warm This Winter’ (KWTW) initiative in response. Our carbon reduction champion, newly appointed last year, organised a series of superb pop-up energy workshops which have offered a glimmer of hope to some of those most deeply affected. Her efforts attracted the attention of Michelle Donelan MP who wrote to thank WWCE for being such a force for good within the local community. I personally am delighted that Jessica’s appointment has allowed us to venture into new territory, giving us the opportunity to reach vulnerable members of the community we would otherwise be unable to help.
Going into 2023, we intend to continue with the KWTW programme and hope to be able to make inroads with the proposed Petersfinger and Silverwood projects, as well as reinvigorating our work to increase biodiversity at our existing sites. Our long-term partnership with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust means that providing a home for wildlife has always been a priority. With that in mind, we will be working closely with the team at WWT to reintroduce bees to our purpose-built hives, and to develop a safe haven for bats at our Chelworth site. By repurposing an old, unused shed and creating a new roosting house, we hope to be able to encourage them to make the site their home and I can’t wait to get work underway on this latest project. So, whatever 2023 has in store for us on the wider stage, I am confident that it will be a productive and fruitful one for those of us engaged with Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support. Here’s to a prosperous year ahead…
Julian Barlow WWCE Chair
Performance Overview A brilliant fourth quarter has us beaming
It was a stand-out end to the year for WWCE’s solar arrays, with generation exceeding P50 projections by 30% over the final quarter. October and December were standout months for irradiance, surpassing estimates by more than 20%, with the total quarterly irradiance figure surpassing projections by 20.35%. A brilliant end to a superb year for WWCE’s solar sites.
Energy advice service praised by Culture Secretary WWCE energy initiative attracts attention of Michelle Donelan MP
Carbon reduction champion, Jessica Thimbleby met over 200 residents in Melksham and Purton during pop-up energy cafes Since kicking off in November, our new Keeping Warm This Winter pop-up energy sessions have helped 240 residents from across Melksham and Purton to better understand how they can reduce their energy bills and stay warm during the chilly winter months. Following its early success, the campaign caught the eye of local MP for Chippenham, Michelle Donelan, who wrote to our carbon reduction champion, Jessica Thimbleby to thank her and WWCE. She praised the enterprise for providing energy advice to local residents, a mission which she referred to as being ‘truly honourable’.
Jessica worked closely with local community groups and organisations to run a series of events at venues including That Meeting Space, Melksham Library, and Pip’s Community Café. During the drop-in sessions she was able to distribute energy-saving freebies like LED lightbulbs, offer useful tips and advice, and give people the chance to ask their burning energy efficiency questions. Jessica said, “The first tranche of events was well received by residents in Melksham, Purton, and the surrounding areas. The feedback we’ve had is that the cafes were extremely helpful, particularly the practical displays which reached people who have been struggling with energy bills. I hope everyone went away having learnt new things and knowing how they can access further support if they need it.” “We’re also incredibly grateful to everyone who has hosted our energy cafes so far and helped us to reach as many people as possible, giving them a safe and welcoming space to find out more and ask questions. It’s a worrying time for many, particularly when we saw temperatures getting down to well below zero, but help is out there,” she added. The hugely positive response has cemented our commitment to delivering further pop-up energy cafes in 2023. We’ll be confirming new dates in due course, so watch this space!
Community Fund News High hopes for community projects in 2023
The WWCE Community Fund had a roaring 2022, allocating vital funds to support a host of fabulous projects across Wiltshire. In the final meeting of the year, the panel confirmed the award of a further £1,000 to Holbrook Primary School in Trowbridge. The grant will allow the school to construct a new pond and a learning pod to facilitate environmental studies for students. Like the Shaw Ridge school who benefitted in the previous round of funding, this scheme will stimulate young people’s interest in a cleaner, greener future for the planet – hopefully inspiring the next generation of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Community Energy members. Going into 2023, we hope to welcome a non-board representative of WWCE to the panel and continue to invite applications for grants from worthwhile community groups involved in causes close to our hearts. Becoming a member of the Community Fund panel is a rewarding opportunity, so if you’d like to be involved, please contact Jon Bateman or Jessica Thimbleby at JessicaT@wiltshirewildlife.org for more information.
Getting Chelworth buzzing again WWCE sets out plan to reintroduce bees at Chelworth
WWCE members may remember that, in 2019, we installed two state-of-the-art beehives at our Chelworth site as part of a national project run by Naturesave to encourage honeybees to thrive at solar farms. After a promising start which saw new bees move in, we unfortunately lost both colonies last year. However, we are very pleased to report that we are working with our local beekeeper to source new colonies and reintroduce them to the hives come the spring. We hope that the bees will join the native pollinators who have been enjoying the nesting sites we have created around the pond in our wildlife area, foraging on the wildflowers blossoming amongst the solar panels and exploring the wider landscape of the neighbouring WWT nature reserve. Fingers crossed the hives will be buzzing with activity before long – we’ll update you on our progress later in the year. Sustainable Wiltshire WWCE supports Sustainable Devizes with Think Energy event sponsorship
WWCE is pleased to be sponsoring the upcoming Think Energy event from Sustainable Devizes. Hosted at The Corn Exchange, Market Place, Devizes on January 28th, the event is designed to inspire individuals and organisations looking to get to grips with spiralling energy prices and reduce their carbon footprints. Sustainable Devizes is a community group which is responding to the climate emergency by raising awareness and promoting action on sustainability and resilience. We look forward to joining the team at this wonderful event, where our very own Jessica Thimbleby will be talking all things WWCE and outlining ‘five easy ways to reduce our energy consumption’… If you have any further questions about WWCE, please always feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.