There is a growing appetite for the development of community energy programmes across the UK. According to the State of the Sector Report there is currently over 400 proactive programmes in the UK, generating over £3 Million of community benefits. In Derbyshire there are currently 5 Rural Community Energy Funded(RCEF) programmes. These include Derbyshire Dales Community Energy programme in Matlock and the Derbyshire Dales; Arkwright Society programme at Cromford Mill; Hope Valley Community Energy; Solar EV Car charging in Belper; Heat network programme in Brassington. There are at least 2 others being considered -a Hydro scheme in Darley Abbey and another similar scheme in Belper. Just like the pioneering Georgian engineers such as Arkwright and Smedley- who used the abundant rivers and streams to power the industrial revolution in the Derwent Valley- these renewable energy democracy pioneers are seeking ways to ramp up the application of solar energy in our schools and businesses.
New investment partner supercharges plans for Dales community energy scheme
Plans for a social renewable energy scheme in Matlock have been supercharged by a new partner organisation which has identified potential to harness up to 1million Watts of solar electricity from sites in the district
Derbyshire Dales Community Energy (DDCE) has enlisted the support of Shropshire cooperative Sharenergy to help guide the process, drawing on its experience of raising more than £20million through community share offers linked to similar initiatives all over the UK.
The first two Matlock rooftop sites, Highfields School and Twiggs on Bakewell Road, have already passed feasibility assessments with a view to delivering 220 kilowatts of capacity, equivalent to around 25 average households – but Sharenergy says there is scope to go far beyond that.
A DDCE spokesperson Professor Steve Martin said: “Sharenergy has identified an ambitious opportunity for us to ensure the longevity and stability of the group. The plan is to take community energy in Derbyshire to the next level by attempting to install 1MW worth of solar photovoltaics in upto 9 or 10 different locations.
The project partners plan to install the first two solar arrays on top of buildings in Matlock in 2023.
“This will not only be providing a great amount of renewable energy, but also will make DDCE more resilient to the potential risks associated with small scale solar PV.”
They added: “There are a few sites in the pipeline that could potentially work well, but nothing is set in stone.
“One of the main factors is that a good solar site doesn’t only need roof space for the PV installation. For a community project to be financially viable it's important that a large portion of the energy generated by the solar is also consumed on site.”
If all goes according to plan, DDCE expects to release shares this autumn, funding the first two installations in early 2023.
DDCE volunteers have also been busy working to set up a community energy hub which could link all the existing, and potential new, projects around Derbyshire, so they can coordinate resources and mutual support. They are celebrating news that Derbyshire County Council have granted Derbyshire Dales Community energy Ltd £50,000 to fund a Community Hub Coordinator to support the existing 5 Rural Community Funded Stage 2 programmes in Derbyshire.
The ultimate aim is to widen the uptake of community energy activities across the county to realise the net zero carbon targets of county and district councils, and act as a catalyst encouraging wider community action.
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