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You may remember this blog post posing the question of whether we need more community energy in New Mills. An overwhelming 90% of people thought we did.

There are a number of stages involved in getting community energy up and running. Broadly speaking they are:

  1. Decide on what type of energy project to develop
  2. Determine a suitable site
  3. Put in place the organisational infrastructure
  4. Raise investment
  5. Build the power station
  6. Generate clean, green power, manage the organisation and distribute dividends
  7. Repeat to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy security and create local jobs!

The good news is that there is now a small team from Transition New Mills working on this. And, having spoken to a number of people, we reckon that generating electricity from solar panels (‘solar PV’) on one or more large roofs is the best way to start. Why is this?

  • Lots of other people have done it so we can follow a well-worn path
  • The technology these days is fairly standard so it’s not likely to present many technical difficulties
  • It’s relatively cheap and provides good financial returns
  • There’s usually no need for planning permission
  • It’s not usually subject to much controversy.

Of course, none of the stages outlined above are simple and we need help. For some of the practical considerations, we’ve secured the partnership of an experienced and friendly solar installation company, Sustainable Energy Systems, whose involvement is vital in ensuring that sites are suitable and we can address technical issues. Together, we’ve been scouting out potentially suitable sites (i.e. large, broadly south-facing roofs in New Mills!) and approaching the people who look after them. Sometimes, finding the right people to talk to and getting a foot in the door is not always as easy as it might seem. Whilst of course it wouldn’t be right to give details of meetings and conversations we’ve had, I can say that one site that looked initially promising is unfortunately not appropriate. We’re currently engaged in discussions over one other potential site and we’re at the early stages of approaching others.

Also extremely helpful has been Ovesco. This organisation was formed by people from Transition Town Lewes and their first project was an installation of solar panels on the roof of a family-owned Sussex brewery. They have definitely been there, done that and have the contacts and expertise to prove it! Among other very useful pointers, they suggested that whilst our first priority is to realise the initial project, the medium-term game plan should be to operate several community-owned power stations so that we can afford for someone to devote a portion of their time to manage them (and their investors) and to develop further opportunities.

Watch this space for further updates as the project progresses. If you have any suggestions or want to get involved, feel free to get in contact via the usual channels or post a comment below.

Installing solar panels on a roof in New Mills

Installing solar panels on a roof in New Mills (mine!)

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