Over £400,000 funding awarded to community energy schemes 

Over the last two round of applications, the South West Energy Hub has awarded rural community energy fund (RCEF) grants totalling £400,000.

Funding has been allocated to projects seeking to develop local energy projects ranging from ground mounted solar PV projects, wind turbine pre-planning studies, and whole energy system solutions for new community-led housing schemes that include solar generation, heat pumps, EV charging point and micro-grids.  

Some of the projects that were recently successful in securing RCEF funding include:

Marshfield CLT – Marshfield Community Solar – Stage 1 Feasibility Grant

Marshfield Community Land Trust are looking to develop up to 5MW of solar to support the village’s ambition to become carbon neutral. The Hub has awarded the group a Stage 1 RCEF grant to support them in assessing the technical and financial feasibility of the project, including an assessment of grid connection costs, planning considerations and potential routes to market.

Jim Brookes, of Marshfield Community Land Trust, said: “MCLT, a Community Benefit Organisation, is about to start construction of its first tranche of affordable and energy efficient housing, and has a wider community remit that includes addressing energy issues. The headline long term objective of meeting all of the village electricity requirements from renewable sources – after allowing for the electrification of cars, heating and cooking – has been the driver of this project despite the considerable challenges of its rural location. The RCEF grant has been extremely helpful to MCLT in funding an experienced Consultancy to explore the feasibility of our aspirations.”

Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) – Chelson Meadow Solar – Stage 2 Development Grant

Following the successful completion of as feasibility study for a ground-mounted solar scheme on an old landfill site near the city of Plymouth, PEC have been awarded further funding to support them through the next stages of the project. The Stage 2 RCEF grant will help PEC progress the 13 MW Chelson Meadow solar project through planning. Developed in partnership with Plymouth City Council, the scheme could generate a significant amount of the City’s renewable power, whilst the RCEF funding will ensure that some of the income generated by the project will be invested into the rural communities neighbouring the site.

Alistair Macpherson, Chief Executive of Plymouth Energy Community, said: “We are really pleased to be progressing to the next stage of this exciting project that supports Plymouth’s response to the climate emergency as well as bringing tangible community benefit. Support from RCEF has been crucial to first establishing the feasibility of the project and now working towards our planning application in December. We look forward to working with the RCEF team as the project develops.”

TRESOC – Clay Park Community Solar and Microgrid – Stage 2 Development Grant

A Stage 2 grant was also awarded to Totnes-based group Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC) for their innovative Clary Park project, a progressive eco-home development being proposed between Totnes and Dartington. An RCEF-funded feasibility grant concluded that the 33 passivhaus house scheme could be supplied by a roof-mounted solar scheme with microgrid and on-site thermal storage. The Stage 2 grant will allow the group to progress the project through to the next legal, technical and financial stages, and will support the group in sharing learning from their project with other groups seeking to develop similar schemes.

Sally Murall-Smith of TRESOC said: “TRESOC are delighted that RCEF have chosen to support the Clay Park Microgrid and Solar project, which will maximize the use of on-site solar, reduce residents energy bills by providing electricity at a reduced market rate at the same time provide a decent return to local community investors. Furthermore, we hope to demonstrate a replicable business model for delivering locally generated low-cost green electricity for everyone, including those in affordable housing, and at scale, which is vital in the transition to a low carbon future”.

To date, the SW Energy Hub has allocated more than £1m under RCEF, supporting a portfolio of community energy projects across the region. If you’d like to find out more about RCEF and how you can apply for funding under the scheme, get in touch at SWenergyhub@westofengland-ca.gov.uk.

New application rounds open monthly until January 2022.