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Community Renewable Energy and community benefits

Information about community energy projects locally and nationally

Local community energy projects

  • Dorset Community Energy (opens in a new window) was established in 2013 as a not-for-profit Community Benefit Society with support for the initial set-up costs and feasibility studies provided by the Big Lottery Communities Living Sustainably in Dorset project. A key aim was to enable local people to invest in solar panels on schools. The participating schools receive free or low cost solar electricity and the shareholder members of Dorset Community Energy receive 5%-6% interest on their investment and their capital returned in instalments between years 4- 20. The level of public interest was beyond initial expectations with almost £500,000 raised in 2015 to finance 410kW of solar panels on 12 schools and 4 community buildings. The participating schools will benefit from approximately £600,000 in free solar electricity over a period of 20 years.
  • Energize Stur Valley (opens in a new window) is an Industrial and Provident Society based in North Dorset. The society have installed a community-financed ground mounted solar PV array to supply The Springhead Trust near Fontmell Magna, and plan to re-instate a disused hydro-electric turbine at the same site.
  • Regen SW (opens in a new window) are delivering a new project, Peer Power (opens in a new window), with the aim or establishing a community energy network in Dorset. The scheme will help community groups to learn from each other and take part in site visits, feasts and training to encourage more locally-owned renewable energy projects in Dorset. The project will end in April 2018.
  • Dorset Agenda 21 (da21) manages the Sustainable Dorset (opens in a new window)website designed to share information about local environmental groups and activities, including community energy projects.

National community energy links

Community benefits from solar farms in Dorset

The majority of solar farm developments in Dorset have offered a community benefit fund to host communities, often through the local Parish or Town Council. The funding may be through an annual payment over the life of the solar farm or a one-off payment once the solar farm is first commissioned. Solar farm community benefit funds totalling around £2m over 20 years have now been offered to 12 Dorset communities.

The funding is usually administered by a local Trust or committee to which organisations can apply. The funding has supported a wide cross section of community projects including building a new community hall, funding for school activities, a local radio station, repairs to a church, repairs and re-decoration of village halls etc. Dorset County Council's Community Energy Team has published basic guidance (pdf, 448kb) (opens in a new window) to assist communities to successfully negotiate solar farm community benefit funds.

Dorset solar farm community benefit register

A number of communities that have benefited from solar farm community benefit funds have forwarded further details which may be of interest to other communities where solar farm developments are proposed. This information has been collated into a Dorset Solar Farm Community Benefit Register (pdf, 250kb) (opens in a new window).

If other communities in receipt of solar farm community benefit funds would like to add details to the register please contact the Community Energy Team Leader.

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