Renewable energy project aims to power Balcombe


Villagers from Balcombe have launched a £49,000 project to install solar panels at two local primary schools in a plan to make the village 100 per cent energy efficient.

The village’s renewable energy co-operative, REPOWERBalcombe, has less than a month to raise the money, through sales of shares to residents, before a crucial government tax break for community energy co-ops is withdrawn on April 6.

If successful, Balcombe Primary School and Turners Hill School will save hundreds of pounds each year on their electricity bills.

The group will retain government funding to pay dividends to shareholders over the 20 year investment period, and fund local community projects tackling fuel poverty, energy efficiency and environmental education.

The minimum investment in the project is £250, to a maximum of £14,700.

The rate of return projected at 5% per annum.

The plan follows the success of REPOWERBalcombe’s pilot project last month, in which 69 panels were installed on a cowshed in Crawley Down.

The final plan is to generate enough solar power to match the entire electricity use of the village.

REPOWERBalcombe spokesman Joe Nixon said: “A number of REPOWERBalcombe’s board members are parents of children at the schools, and are passionate about bringing benefits of community renewable energy to the next generation.”

REPOWER Balcombe was set up by Balcombe residents, with help of carbon cutting campaign 10:10, as a way to produce clean, locally-owned power after the controversy over oil drilling by Cuadrilla in summer 2013.

10:10’s community energy campaigner Leo Murray said: “Community owned, local power companies keep the financial benefits of clean energy generation within local communities – instead of maximising profits to corporate shareholders as happens with giant utilities.

“10:10 are campaigning for changes to UK energy market rules to allow consumers to buy their power from local co-ops, so that the biggest benefits of the low carbon transition go to the people who live alongside the solar, wind and hydro power developments that are driving this transition.”