There are towns in the UK which dream of sustaining themselves out of their own production of electricity. Wadebridge in Cornwall is one of them: 10 solar systems installed, 100 more to go! The town has already begun the 2015 race, meaning 15,000 MWh each year. If they manage that, then they become eligible for feed-in tariffs: profitable contracts that buy the clean energy and add it up to the grid at a good price.
The people involved in this project could not have made it without the help of WREN. The Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network is a non-profit co-operative responsible for the installation of thousands of PV panels on homes and public buildings.
This way, they are able to use the electricity and receive the governmen’s feed-in tariffs. In just one year from now, WREN has in mind to install 1 MW and 7 more by 2015. One of the organization’s advantages is the fact that it is quite open: living in Wadebridge is the only condition to participating in the project.
If it sounds like a club, well, you’re not far off: the “Solar Club,” launched by the Network, makes good prices available on solar panels. If not, you can always try the Triodos ethical bank alternative, which implies the reinvestment of the revenue from the feed-in tariffs in other projects of the sort.
People are more and more interested in the plan, especially with rising fuel prices, the pollution threat and the lack of well-paid jobs for the young in the area. As WREN officials confirm, it would do a lot of good to the community, for all the reasons mentioned above.
However, there is one big problem threatening the project: the government is only offering the maximum feed-in tariffs for a production of 50kW per system at most, which is way lower than what the community needs in terms of money.
For example, another WREN project – the solar allotment scheme – would make it possible for locals to have shares in larger projects. It would translate in electricity for a quarter of the town and around £2.5 million in the next 25 years. This money would then be used to fund other projects, until the town would become energetically independent.