Wedmore opens a £1.1m community solar plant

... after a CSE presentation set the wheels in motion

11 November 2013

Investors in a £1.1 million community solar plant in Somerset celebrated its official opening with a glass of sparkling local cider on Saturday 2 November.

Many of the 178 people who have ploughed funds into Wedmore Community Power Co-operative joined in celebrations marking completion of the one-megawatt plant. The majority of shareholders are from the surrounding area, attracted by a lower investment threshold for local residents and a desire to reduce their community’s carbon footprint.

Keen to investigate the idea of a community renewable energy project, Wedmore Green Group held a public meeting just over two years ago and invited CSE's communities team to come and speak. It was a presentation based on our PlanLoCaL resources that captured the imagination of the wider community, and made them keen to go ahead with investing in a solar project. “We're really pleased to see how far they've come in a short space of time,” said CSE’s James Watt, who ran the session.

Almost 4,000 solar panels have been installed in two new paddocks just outside the village. The electricity generated and fed into the local grid is enough to power 55,000 light bulbs (even in November), the same amount as 300 typical domestic solar arrays. Every year it will save around 450 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The co-operative's secretary Robin Mewes, said: “We are delighted to have opened our solar energy plant, enabling our community to reduce its carbon emissions and take control of its energy production, thus becoming more resilient.”

It's a project that is really benefitting the local community. Some of the co-operative’s profits will be ploughed back into the community in the form of grants for local organisations and charities. Many local people found temporary work installing the solar panels and other equipment. And anybody who worked on the site is entitled to buy shares in the co-operative.

CSE helped the group to promote the share offer to the community, as well as helping with some financial advice and offering other bits of support along the way. This support was offered as part of our Levels and Moors project that helped a number of community energy groups across Somerset to fulfil their ambitions.

“Wedmore Community Power Co-operative has completed its solar plant through a great deal of hard work, experience and perseverance,” says James, “but we're happy to know that our support and our PlanLoCaL toolkit played an important role in getting the project up and running. We hear on the grapevine that other community energy projects are finding the PlanLoCaL resources useful too - do drop us a line if that's you, as we'd love to hear how you're getting on.”


If you’d like to know how CSE could help with your community energy project, please contact communities@cse.org.uk and tell us your ideas.

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