A COMMUNITY RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT
We have always had ambitions to develop a community energy project, not only to increase the local generation of renewable energy but also to create a fund that would provide the resources to begin to tackle Buxton’s poor levels in insulation in its houses (many of these fall in the “difficult and expensive” category to improve).
We identified a possible site at Waterswallows – the actual quarry – for a floating solar farm. We were successful in bidding for a feasibility grant from the government, administered at the time by WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme). The quarry felt a good site as it is brownfield, designated for industrial use, not overlooked or used by anyone and invisible from the National Park. Some years ago we learnt about a floating solar array at Godley Reservoir near Hyde and we wondered if that might work round here. Even better, it is very near to the main substation that feeds Buxton and to large power users such as Tunstead Quarry. When we started the estimated annual energy yield would be over 3,700,000 kWh which is roughly the amount of electricity used by 1,000 homes. However, improvements in panels mean that today the output would be around 5,500,000 kWh, powering almost 1,500 homes.
The feasibility study (now some 4 years old) confirmed that the site is technically ideal for such a development, even down to the “beach” from which to float the panels. Unfortunately, by the time we were able to gain the support of the landowner and undertake the business case, the government feed-in tariffs for such schemes had been abolished. This meant that at the prices available at the time it was not economically viable.
Panels are now cheaper as well as more productive. Indeed solar has just been identified as the least expensive form of electricity generation in the history of mankind. Solar schemes are now being built that are subsidy free and still profit making. The difficulty we find at the moment is that our scheme is not quite big enough to easily attract investors (such as pension funds) and is too big to develop as a “pure” community scheme.
If you have any contacts in or work making investments, we would love to hear from you…..
More news as we have it – but if you’re interested in helping out with this project do get in touch.