Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy Newsletter Winter 2021
Quarterly Newsletter, Winter 2021
Message from Chair
Wishing all our members a very happy new year!
After what has been an undeniably challenging period for us all, I was pleased to see so many of you attend the AGM in September. My thanks go to everyone who was able to attend, and for those who were unable to make it we have compiled a round-up of the ‘best bits’ for you here. Full details of the Board’s presentation can also be found online.
I for one am moving into 2022 full of optimism. Despite the lingering uncertainty which surrounds the pandemic, I remain hopeful that science will prevail in the face of adversity. Be that in the battle against the ever-evolving threat of Covid-19, or in the race to achieve net zero and preserve our planet for future generations. The climate emergency has been brought into sharp focus of late, not least with the UK’s hosting of the COP26 conference in Glasgow in November last year. To capitalise on the opportunity this presented to kick start conversations around the environment and build momentum around community energy initiatives, we joined forces with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to support the nationwide Moths to a Flame project. The young people involved had some fantastic discussions about what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint which was incredibly encouraging to hear. Seeing hundreds of milk bottle moths and their willow counterparts sitting atop our solar arrays at Braydon was a striking symbol of some of the positive action we at WWCE are taking to reduce carbon and slow the rate of climate change on our doorstep.
On the wider stage, I look forward to seeing the pledges made in the Glasgow Climate Pact translated into action by world leaders over the coming months, but as Secretary-General Guterres said, “We won’t reach our destination in one day or one conference.” While the year ahead may still be full of uncertainties, 2022 does at least promise to be an exciting one for the enterprise. As you may have noticed, we are starting as we mean to go on with a brand new look, an enhanced online presence, and a renewed focus on media engagement.
Add to that the prospect of new community solar arrays and a raft of incredible local causes set to benefit through the Community Fund, I am confident that WWCE will continue to achieve great things and find new and innovative ways to reduce carbon and help wildlife to flourish across the county. To borrow the words of the Secretary General once more, when it comes to doing our bit to slow the rate of climate change, WWCE promises to “Never give up. Never retreat. Keep pushing forward”.
Summer and autumn generation ahead of projections
It may feel gloomy out there but the sun certainly seems to have been shining on our Chelworth and Braydon arrays. Despite a somewhat lacklustre summer, the two sites soaked up just as many rays as we'd expected (just 0.19% short) between July and December, which means we’ve been able to generate 2.66% more green energy than anticipated overall. In total, WWCE’s solar panel installations have produced 2632 MWh – enough renewable energy to boil 82 million cups of tea. Here’s hoping for a sunny start to 2022.
Like Moths to a Flame
WWCE speaks up on climate change
We revealed last year that WWCE would be teaming up with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust on an exciting climate initiative to be displayed at COP26, and that we did! As part of the award-winning Moths to a Flame art installation spearheaded by the Art and Energy Collective, students from the Trust’s education team and care farms worked together with talented local willow artist Linda Rees, to produce two giant willow moths and 200 smaller unique moths out of recycled plastic milk bottles.
Their designs went on to take centre stage at Glasgow’s botanic gardens for the duration of the United Nation’s 26th Climate Conference, alongside thousands more from community groups across the UK. During forest school and eco-therapy sessions, young people at The Willows and Lakeside Care Farms crafted their moths and discussed the role of the insect as an indicator of the environmental health of an area, as well as recording messages to be played to politicians at the Conference. The two larger willow pieces will now permanently reside at WWT reserves as a lasting reminder of the project.
WWCE’s work on the project has been immortalised on film and was showcased to delegates during the landmark conference. The initiative certainly captured the attention of the local press, with coverage gained across a host of regional broadcast, print, and online media which all serves to raise the profile of our mission in the community.
New Generation on WWCE's horizon
WWCE eyes expansion with new community solar prospects
In collaboration with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, WWCE has identified a potential location for a new solar array near Salisbury. The Petersfinger Farm project has already received a grant from the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) to investigate the commercial, technical and planning feasibility of the solar array on land connected to a new retirement community.
Plans include installing solar panels on approximately 7 acres of the 40-acre site, with biodiversity and ecological enhancement measures to be developed in conjunction with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. For more information please keep an eye on our website.
Progress is also being made on a potential 500kW solar array for a new classroom building at Silverwood School, a school for children with special educational needs, near Devizes. The new building has now secured planning consent and we are progressing work on the business case. If the project goes ahead, we will launching a new WWCE community bond offer to fund it. We will keep you updated.
March 2022 interest payments made
As proposed at the AGM, an interest payment of 4% was made at the end of December for the year to March 2022.
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Community Fund News
A fond farewell to Peter Newell
After five years as a member representative and Chair of the WWCE Community Fund Group, Peter Newell has confirmed he will be stepping down from his post. His vision and pragmatism have kept the Group moving forward throughout the pandemic, with virtual meetings ensuring that vital funds kept flowing. During his time as chair, the Fund has allocated in excess of £45,000 to a range of innovative local groups spearheading a host of fantastic projects. We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to Peter for his unwavering leadership and support.
Of course, Peter’s departure means we will be seeking a new chair, but we would also like to encourage any members who may have an interest in supporting community initiatives like those we’ve mentioned to get in touch! By joining the WWCE Community Fund Group, you can help us to make our vision of ‘less carbon, more wildlife in Wiltshire’ a reality.
This year alone the Fund has been able to support a diverse range of schemes – from environment protection and water conservation projects, to cycle groups, educational facilities, and the delivery of unique wildlife experiences for young people across the county. An emergency grant was also provided to the Wiltshire Community Foundation to help alleviate food poverty in Swindon and Wiltshire in the wake of the Covid pandemic. As ever, the Fund welcomes applications from interested organisations. Applications are easy and further details can be found here.
Your Questions Answered:
Many thanks to those who came and contributed the following questions to the AGM:
Will higher power prices mean that we will earn more money from selling electricity in future?
The business cases for Chelworth and Braydon are now based on the guaranteed feed-in-tariff export rate – a ‘floor’ price that was offered by the government at the time the projects were built. The rate increases with inflation each year. We can opt out of the export rate and into a commercial power purchase agreement (PPA) when market prices rise above the export rate. Current high electricity prices are a problem for consumers but enable us to sell our solar power at a higher price and earn more revenue than expected.
We have contracted commercial PPAs for Braydon out to 2023 and Chelworth out to 2025, and will look to extend those contracts when we can. The revenue upsides will feed into our financial results over the next couple of years. Electricity prices are expected to come back down again over the next few years, so we are making the most of it whilst we can. Long-term electricity price forecasts remain below the guaranteed export rate.
How do our rates of return compare to original expectations and how is the shortfall quantified?
The long-term electricity price forecasts which the original business plan was based on were reasonable at the time but have turned out to be too high. In addition, there were cost over-runs at Braydon during construction.
Why are we only paying £10,000 to the Community Fund instead of £20,000?
We don’t usually donate £20,000, it was exceptional last year due to the government grant. In addition, until recently we’d had a surplus in the fund.
Can we use ground source heat pump at Silverwood school?
At the moment we don’t see that there is a robust enough model for investing in heat pumps as a community energy scheme, though we are always considering opportunities with new technologies.
Are we using the best panels?
The panels installed at Braydon and Chelworth have performed well and are expected to last 30 years. We will look to use the best quality and performing panels we can in any new installations, as well as seeking assurance from suppliers on ethical supply chains.
January news regarding the new chairman also talked about "new scheme for free energy checks for homes and accessing gov grants. Has this started and made progress?
Unfortunately, we hadn’t anticipated the Government’s Green Homes scheme would close. We are assessing potential alternatives.
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