The following article has been written by our new member, Tara Bowers, who is a Director of Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-op.

Being a newcomer to North Devon and having a keen interest in all things sustainable I was pleased to find a number of community-led initiatives in the area, not least 361 Energy CIC.

I’ve moved from Hampshire, a densely populated county, heavy on energy use, but with woefully underutilised natural resources. A county full of woodland, lots of sunshine, wind and tidal possibilities too. Yet not a single wind farm, very few solar parks, hardly any solar roofs, and local councils who don’t seem to understand the dangers of climate change, let alone the opportunities available from renewable energy.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. An enthusiastic bunch formed HREC – Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-op, and I was lucky enough to be invited to join the board in 2014. HREC has been focusing on community owned renewable energy projects. Much of our effort was ploughed into campaigning for the Bullington Cross wind farm (an EDF project), of which we had hoped to own 10% under a community scheme. Turned down at the planning hearing, despite over 3000 – yes 3000 – letters of support.  EDF appealed, but sadly due to changes in Government policy in 2015, EDF withdrew the appeal and in fact have withdrawn from wind power in England altogether.  Our aims had been to generate a large income from the wind farm project that could have been ploughed into our own educational projects (fuel poverty etc) as well as supporting other local initiatives.

Luckily HREC have been also working on a number of solar projects, a few hopefully will come to fruition this year. Bishops Waltham Solar Farm, East Hants solar roof projects, a school roof in the New Forest to name just a few. And for 2016 we’re also looking at woodland management / biomass opportunities. The team remain optimistic despite the chains that Government seem hell bent on imposing on community energy as well as the renewable energy market.  Like all community initiatives funding is always key, so this year a new recruit has joined the team who is specifically looking at funding options to help take many of our projects forward.

It’s refreshing to see such an active group here in North Devon. I’m particularly impressed that an annual Energy Fair takes place, and 361 Energy CIC have done some amazing work around fuel poverty issues.

I feel inspired and encouraged by the activities underway at 361 Energy CIC, and I very much look forward to helping where I can.

More information about Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-operative can be found on their website