The community power station
Chris Rowland used to work for companies such as Shell and British Airways installing architectural glass, but now he is the sole employee of Ovesco, a co-operatively owned renewable energy provider in Lewes, East Sussex, that is behind Britain’s first community-owned solar-power station.
After local residents and 250 shareholders raised more than £350,000 in two months, Mr Rowland and supporters set about installing 445 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the local brewery, Harveys. Running since July this year, the new roof generates 98kW of energy and is expected to cut £6,000 from the firm’s annual electiricty bill.
It was one of the last projects to be set up before the Government announced cuts of up to 71 per cent to feed-in tariffs for solar projects generating more than 50kW. It would not have been viable after those cuts, Mr Rowland says.
“The Government has really taken away opportunities for other communities to do something on this scale. There are thousands of communities like ours that could benefit from something like this and would want local, decentralised energy, given the chance,” he says.
“The coalition doesn’t think communities can deliver anything on scale, but Transition allows focused social enterprises to deliver small-scale projects like ours, which really help the community. It comes from the ‘small is beautiful’ model and while it won’t suit every location, it is really good at pulling people together and starting them off,” he says.
Ovesco has also been given a grant worth £500,000 by Lewes District Council to carry out renewable energy projects in local homes.
By Sarah Morrison for The Independent: Sunday 2 October 2011
(pictured in the checked shirt) and supporters set about installing 445
photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the local brewery.
Photograph by DAVID MCHUGH