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New co-operative hydro project gathers momentum

Posted on 13 August 2013

Ethical energy provider, Co-operative Energy has agreed a partnership with Neen Sollars Community Hydro Co-operative (NSCH Co-op) Ltd allowing customers to own a share of their energy supplier and invest directly in their local energy generator. Drawing from the River Rea, Neen Sollars Community Hydro is Shropshire’s first co-operative renewable energy project and the innovative project will bring water power back to Tetstill Mill site, listed in the Domesday Book, for the first time in a century. The project has enabled the construction of a 12.5 kW hydroelectric installation at Tetstill Mill, Neen Sollars on the River Rea which will produce green electricity to the local electrical grid, providing around a fifth of the domestic power use in the village of Neen Sollars and locally meeting the national target of 20% renewables. This project, which will be operational from late August, is one of the very few renewable energy installations in the West Midlands and the first to be community owned. The key benefits of the scheme are the practical generation of green electricity, local community involvement in owning and running a renewable generation system, raising awareness and education in the local area, and the opportunity for a local social enterprise company to make a modest yearly income which will be re-invested in local environmentally sustainable projects. The project, working with Sharenergy, has been conceived and executed by local people and is being implemented alongside wider attempts to improve the ecological status and sustainability of the Rea catchment. For example, a fish ladder was installed by Severn Rivers Trust at the site in order to allow salmon to travel upriver: this will be compatible with the hydropower installation. Tom Hoines, Renewables Manager at Co-operative Energy said: “The purpose of this project is to generate as much hydro electricity as possible on site and reduce reliance of the nearby area on the national grid electricity which is currently primarily fossil fuel based. Estimates show that the project will displace the equivalent of 27 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. “Neen Sollars will generate revenue from the sale of electricity and receive income from the Feed in Tariff (FIT) which will enable a dividend to be paid to members and to return their original investment outlay at end of the investment period. This is likely to be 20 years based on the term of the FIT payment.  This partnership between the two co-operatives means that investing members of Neen Sollars Community Hydro Co-operative (NSCH Co-op) Ltd will be able to invest in decentralised low carbon energy generation, with an annual rate of return. Members will also be able to own a share of the supplier that delivers power to their homes, completing the chain of end-to-end mutual ownership.” Bill Duley, chair of NSCH Co-op Ltd, said: “This project is taking power from a naturally renewable resource, the River Rea almost at our doorstep, for the use of the local community. It is therefore quite fitting that this involves a co-operative approach, not only in plant development, fabrication and ownership but in distributing this power through Co-operative Energy, thereby ensuring community use and benefit throughout.” This project was originally developed as a collaboration between three not-for-profit organisations Cleobury Country Limited (CCL) working with the local environment group, Cleobury Country Environment Forum (CCEF) and Sharenergy, a Shrewsbury-based co-operative which helps community groups to establish community owned renewable energy co-ops.

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