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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 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 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 Peer Power: The Dorset County Council Community Energy Team supported this project by Regen SW, which aimed to create new community energy groups in Dorset. The project has now ended
  • Dorset Agenda 21 (da21) manages the Sustainable Dorset website designed to share information about local environmental groups and activities, including community energy projects.

National community energy links

  • Community Energy England is the representative body for the community energy sector in England. The organisation aims to help create the conditions within which the community energy sector can rapidly grow and become a normal part of the work of local communities. Their Community Energy Hub provides useful guidance and resources for new groups
  • The Rural Community Energy Fund can provide grants of up to £20,000 for community renewable energy project feasibility studies and unsecured loans of up to £130,000 to take a community project to the investment ready stage
  • Communities for Renewables is a specialist consultancy and Community Interest Company that helps local energy enterprises to develop, finance and manage renewable energy generation schemes that are owned by and run for the benefit of the local community
  • Regen SW supports a South West Community Energy Network including events, training and seminars

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 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.

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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