The English city using community energy to drive positive change

From city hydropower to microgrids and rooftop photo voltaic, Bristol Power Cooperative harnesses inexperienced vitality and the ability of group to focus on a self-sufficient future

Bristol is not any stranger to photo voltaic panels. Round 30MW of photo voltaic PV has already been put in on rooftops throughout town, permitting companies, colleges, group centres and residents to profit from renewable vitality. However in line with Bristol’s Centre for Sustainable Power, that’s a mere 6 per cent of what’s attainable. 

Working to extend that determine is Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC). It gives organisations with free photo voltaic panels, and helps on a myriad of initiatives which might be increasing town’s inexperienced vitality provides. 

Since 2011, BEC has raised £14m by way of bond and share gives, and loans. It’s put in over 9MWp (mega watt peak refers back to the most potential output of energy) of photo voltaic and battery belongings – sufficient to energy greater than 3,000 houses – and channelled over £300,000 of group profit funds into native social and environmental initiatives. It’s not unhealthy going for an organisation that was established by volunteers. Individuals who, as communications supervisor Jess Gitsham places it, “simply wished to take some motion to handle local weather challenges”. 

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Right this moment, BEC is within the midst of its eighth share supply. Initially aiming for a £1m goal, in April they took the choice to double this to £2m, and at the moment are about midway to that objective. The cash will fund community-owned inexperienced vitality initiatives in Bristol and every investor, no matter their funding, is granted an equal say in how the organisation is run. Projected returns are 3.5 per cent every year, a price that’s a methods off from present ranges of inflation, however, says, Gitsham: “The ‘added worth’ of our funding v an ESG fund [one incorporating environmental, social and governance criteria] is that it permits folks to study and interact within the work – to have a a lot nearer reference to how their cash is making a distinction.”

The purse is highly effective in terms of producing change, she believes. Versus pension funds, which may depart you feeling like an insignificant cog in a lower than benevolent wheel, group vitality is about taking management of your financial savings. It’s about “channelling them into real-life change,” she says. 

One mission the share supply will assist to fund is a 125kW rooftop PV scheme for Bristol Beacon (previously Colston Corridor), which has set its sights on changing into the UK’s first carbon-neutral live performance corridor. BEC’s involvement has reworked the size of the plans, says Will Houghton, the co-op’s mission developer. “It was going to be a small set up on one aspect of the roof, and we’re protecting the entire roof now,” he explains.

Community energy

In 2015, Bristol turned the UK’s first ever European Inexperienced Capital. Picture: Steelfish

BEC may even present funding for a group photo voltaic PV microgrid for Bridport Cohousing’s ‘sustainable and inexpensive’ 53-home growth in Dorset. The houses may have air supply warmth pumps for decent water and back-up heating, and PV panels on their roofs. Power from these might be linked to the on-site microgrid. It’s the largest mission of its variety within the UK, and a mannequin that might be adopted by different housing builders. 

“We’re hoping that after a couple of years of operation, the Bridport Cohousing microgrid will be handed over into possession by the residents,” says Houghton. 

A earlier share supply additionally raised funding for the Tesla battery and microgrid that’s now put in on the Water Lilies housing growth within the Lawrence Weston space of Bristol – the UK’s first home housing microgrid with battery storage. 

Community energy

Round 30MW of photo voltaic PV has already been put in on rooftops throughout Bristol. Picture: Giorgio Trovato

An city hydroelectric scheme at Netham Weir on the River Avon is within the works too, which would supply round 300kWp – sufficient to energy round 250 houses.

“We’re very enthusiastic about it as a result of there aren’t many alternatives for hydro in Bristol,” says Houghton. In the meanwhile, a lot of the vitality produced by water crashing over the weir is misplaced. “Standing subsequent to it, you possibly can actually sense how a lot vitality there may be,” Houghton enthuses. “We’re making an attempt to do one thing with that – to ensure it’s not wasted.” 

By investing in group vitality initiatives, anybody could make a distinction to the way in which vitality is produced of their native space – one they’ll see with their very own eyes. That is notably highly effective at a time when many individuals are involved about rising vitality prices and progress on web zero targets. 

Standing subsequent to the weir, you possibly can actually sense how a lot vitality there may be. We’re making an attempt to ensure it’s not wasted

Certainly one of BEC’s investor-members just lately informed the organisation a few go to to Netham Weir together with her three youngsters. “She liked the truth that she might go into our metropolis and see these things happening, and that she’s been concerned within the funding behind it,” says Gitsham, who hopes such initiatives will encourage the subsequent technology of engineers. 

There at the moment are 424 group vitality organisations throughout the UK, in line with Group Power England’s 2021 state of the sector report. “That’s fairly huge, however not that many people hear about it,” says Gitsham. She advises anybody who desires to become involved in group vitality to get in contact with their native cooperative. 

“Time and sources are at all times a problem. So prepared volunteers who can deliver their expertise alongside, no matter they’re, are at all times welcome.”


Bristol Power Cooperative in numbers 

The info:

  • £

    raised since 2011

  • 9

    of photo voltaic and battery belongings at present put in

  • 3,000

    variety of houses powered by these belongings

  • 3.5

    for traders

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