posted by Malachi Chadwick

local energy projects will restore your faith in humanity

Have you ever stood right up close to a big wind turbine when it's blowing a gale? Or watched the electricity meter run backwards in a solar powered house? It's really something. 

The first ever Community Energy Fortnight, which kicks off this weekend, is all about experiences like this. There's 24 events, tours and open days lined up around the country, giving people the chance to see some of the UK's coolest clean energy projects up close.

But if you can't make it to an event, here's your consolation prize: six gloom-busting community energy schemes, and the stories behind them. Enjoy! 


Solar everywhere in Steyning

Solar panels in Steyning

Get a birds eye view of any town in the UK these days, and you're bound to spot a solar panel or two. But Steyning in Sussex takes it to the next level.

The local 10:10 group has done an amazing job of spreading the word, with more than 60 houses all solared up.

When they're not promoting PV, you'll find Steyning 10:10ers recruiting for the 500-strong area freecycle scheme, or campaigning to save the local bus services.


The highest hydro: stream power on Wales' greatest peak 

Snowdon Hydro team

From a sleepy Sussex valley to the highest mountain in Wales: local energy heroes know how to work with what they've got.

The National Trust's Snowdon hydro scheme, which is being finished up as I type, will harness the power of the mountain's streams, generating enough electricity for every National Trust property in Wales.

Building in one Britain's most beautiful places poses some obvious challenges, and the team went to great lengths to make sure the finished product blends in with its surroundings. No polished chrome and blue LED uplighting here, thank you very much.


Isle of Eigg is powered by 85% renewables, 15% awful puns

Wind turbines on the Isle of Eigg

The Isle of Eigg (pronounced 'egg') in the Inner Hebrides really has clean energy cracked. They first cast off the yolk of fossil fuel dependence in 2008 with the launch of their community grid project, and the island's low carbon transition has been on the boil ever since.

These days, renewables rule the roost, supplying 85% of Eigg's electricity, and the island has become a mandatory destination for anyone hatching plans for island-based community energy projects. It's not just about generation though – the energy-saving soldiers of Eigg have halved their power consumption in just a few years. Ok, I'm done.


Solar Schools kids put clean power in their classrooms

Call us biased, but this might be the most exciting thing to happen to your school roof since Lee Grant kicked the best football up there in 1993.

Through the Solar Schools project, pupils, parents and teachers up and down the country are baking cakes, holding discos and scooting round the playground at terrifying speeds to raise money for solar panels.

Here's Little Kingshill combined school in Buckinghamshire, who hit their target in July and should have their panels up in time for autumn term.


Britain's prettiest clean energy project?

Torrs Hydro

This is the glorious Torrs Hyro, busy powering the equally glorious town of New Mills, in Derbyshire. The 63 kilowatt Archimedes screw (nicknamed Archie) is owned by 230 (mostly) local shareholders, and a portion of each year's income helps fund local projects – including a Solar School nearby.

The project is also just up the road from the Swizzels Matlow factory, which means lower carbon love hearts and double lollies all round!


World's first tidal lagoon set to power Swansea bay

If you've ever watched the waves flatten your lovingly built sandcastle, you'll know that Britain has one of the biggest tidal ranges in the world.

But if this new project takes off, it'll harness some of that turret-destroying energy for the first time, generating enough power from the shifting tides to supply 120,000 homes for over a century to come.

In what's hopefully a sign of the times, the developers have opened up a community share offer to fund part of the £650m project, with first priority given to people living in Wales. This is a big, bold project with lots of hurdles still to clear, but if all goes to plan, it could be connected to the grid within seven years.


Inspired? Here's some stuff to do

  • If you're the petitioning type, make sure this one has your name on it. Or even if you're not, hell, make an exception!
  • Feeling more ambitious? Check out the free Rough Guide to Community Energy (co-authored by yours truly) for some pointers on starting your own project.
  • And don't forget to check out the list of events happening for Community Energy Fortnight, and see if you can make it to one near you. There really is no substitute for seeing this stuff for yourself.