Normally, the village of Balcombe, West Sussex is just another picturesque spot in a valley where nothing really happens. But when Cuadrilla Resources–the UK’s fracking pioneer–announced plans to do some exploratory drilling just five miles from the town, the citizens sprang into action. For two months they protested in an anti-fracking camp set up on the outskirts of town. Finally, the company announced it was abandoning the drill site. Not because of the protests, of course, but because rocks at the site already contain natural fractures, making it unsuitable for profitable extraction. But the activism of this tiny down didn’t disappear with the drilling rigs. Now the citizens have formed REPOWERBalcombe, a community coalition that seeks to finance and build community-owned solar power plants, and someday, take Balcombe off the grid entirely.
Founded by a handful of motivated citizens, REPOWERBalcombe wants the town to “to take responsibility for meeting [its] own energy needs in a way that does not contribute to climate change or harm the prospects of future generations.”
“Our goal is to set up a program of renewable energy solutions based in and around the community. The aim is to generate the equivalent of 10% of Balcombe’s electricity usage through rooftop solar panels within the next 6 months, and eventually to generate the equivalent of 100% of the village’s electricity usage from clean, renewable energy sources,” explains the cooperative.
To do that, they’ll need to raise £300,000 (approximately $500,000). That’s a lot of money, so REPOWERBalcombe plans to offer shares to the community. They expect that residents who invest in the program will enjoy at least a 5% return during the 20-year lifetime of the scheme. Not to mention the knowledge that they helped finance a project that could make their community completely self-sufficient when it comes to energy.
In late March 2014, the group “announced it has signed a lease to host the first 19kw array on the roof of a cow shed, at a local family-owned farm. Talks are under way about a further five sites, which could be fitted with solar this spring,” reports The Guardian.
“We all need energy, but buying dirty fossil power from giant utilities is no longer the only option,” REPOWER Balcombe spokesman Joe Nixon told the paper.
“Advances in renewable technology mean that communities like ours can now generate the energy we need ourselves, locally, in a way that benefits us directly instead of big power companies – and helps the environment instead of harming it. This is win-win for Balcombe and for the planet.”