CARE have been working on establishing a community based renewable energy project since 2004. Their long-term vision is to work with the local area to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, whilst at the same time tackle fuel poverty and social exclusion. They intend to feed financial resources generated through renewable energy back into the community; by increasing energy efficiency and household renewable energy generation in household dwellings and to support local businesses and local facilities such as community halls. The project lies in one of the two electoral wards worst affected by fuel poverty in Wales.
Following scoping work by consultants in 2006, wind energy was identified as the most appropriate renewable energy source to benefit the community financially and cut carbon emissions. They have been working tirelessly to make this a reality ever since. After persevering for 13 years, CARE finally had their proposal accepted in 2016. This was after 5 planning decisions had been declined and receiving high levels of conflict from a minority of vocal anti-wind-power individuals.
CARE’s project was held up in planning during a time when wind schemes were able to generate considerable incomes through high Feed in Tariffs (FiTs). One of CARE’s planning applications, if it had received swift approval, would have generated over £4 million for the community. The current very low FiT rates led CARE to actively explore new innovative ways to establish the project for the benefit of the community, including: generating hydrogen for local carbon neutral transport, supplying a local business and an electric vehicle charge point with the wind turbine’s electricity.
Renew Wales stepped in at this point and supported the group as they developed the wind turbine project, including research into different possibilities to assess the viability of the project. Although the funding bid that Renew supported CARE with was unsuccessful, the research component provided by Renew has been very useful for CARE in determining the type of generator and storage needed for this project.
CARE won the Renew award for ‘Against all Odds: Best example of determination to tackle climate change locally’ in 2017. You can watch their video here. This led to them receiving 2.5 days of extra Peer Mentoring, which they used to explore potential storage for local grid schemes. With support from Daniel Blackburn, a Renew Peer Mentor, CARE ran an event in the local Community Centre where they invited battery storage and grid experts to present. Community groups were invited from across Pembrokeshire to attend this free event. For groups producing their own renewable energy it was an opportunity to learn from experts about cutting edge technology on how to best to utilise their yield, combat fuel poverty and escape being victims to electricity pricing differences.
As well as the educational and awareness aspects of the event, the day was also used to drum up support for CARE, their wind turbine and wider objectives. The group were surprised by the very high turnout, 91 attendees – over double what they were expecting! They designed the event so that the speakers could run an intensive workshop prior to the public attending, this gave the opportunity for the committee and the host community centre of Canolfan Hermon to assess the potential for more energy efficiency and energy storage at the centre. From the day, John Cantor a Renew Peer Mentor identified a huge inefficiency with the centre’s air source heat pump. John managed to then resolve the issue through modification on the day of the workshop! Following on from this the three speakers presented to the public and had a Q&A session, which has been made available online.
“It was really useful for CARE to have so many people through the door, and it’s helped us increase our local network of professionals and the public as well as increasing awareness about our project and energy storage and efficiency in general.”
As a result of the event, a couple who attended have installed a batter storage system in their own home (right is the picture from this installation).
Today, CARE is continuing to work with Renew, showing Renew’s essential role in filling the gaps for support on large scale grassroots projects such as managing community owned assets. With Peer Mentor Jeremy Thorpe, who works for Share Energy, they will be developing a financial tool which can be used by Cwm Arian to interrogate costs and compare different scenarios for this project. The tool will empower them to have more control over their financial management and will be accessible to other community groups in a similar position. From this CARE will be empowered to make decisions on the basis of their finances, one of the main decisions will be whether to opt for a reconditioned wind turbine or new turbine based on predicted costs and yield over the project’s lifetime.
It is a pivotal point for CARE as the deadline for current FiTs is December 2018. Hopefully, with the extra Renew support from Jeremy Thorpe they will be on track to producing clean energy in 2019 and achieving their wider goals in the community.
For more information on Cwm Arian Renewable Energy visit their website