Cabinet members and senior officers from South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) had an opportunity to see the possibilities of community energy at an event organised by CAfS.

The group, including the leader of the council and the directors of housing and planning, visited the community energy installation at James Cropper PLC in Burneside on Tuesday 23 April. They also heard how community-owned renewables could be a game-changer for new housing developments in South Lakeland.

The visit began with a presentation by Phil Davies from CAfS on how the community-owned solar PV installation at James Cropper PLC came about. Phil is chair and co-founder of Burneside Community Energy (BCE), which owns the installation. He outlined how this community-benefit company was set up, supported by CAfS, and the process it went through to install 750kw of solar PV, also describing the benefits to the community. The aim was to show the SLDC group how this model could be replicated elsewhere in South Lakeland, lowering CO2 emissions and creating a circular economy to retain income that would otherwise drain out of the area.

The group then heard how community-owned renewables could be integrated into new housing developments. Historically, building developers often do not take up the opportunity to install renewables due to the cost. Gill Fenna, director of BCE and Quantum Strategy & Technology, explained that community energy companies could be the answer, with people coming together to own the installations. In this way, all new housing developments could have renewable energy integrated into them for heating and power. It’s particularly timely, with the Government announcement that gas boilers cannot be installed in any new homes after 2025.

Gill also outlined an exciting new project that could see community-owned solar PV installed on the roofs of major businesses in and around South Lakeland. The Solar Kendal initiative has been spearheaded by Ellergreen Energy, building on experience from the partnership between Burneside Community Energy and James Cropper PLC.

Gill, who has been liaising with businesses and laying the groundwork for the project, reported that the response has been very positive. The project could result in a total capacity of 2MW of solar energy. The plan is to give local people the chance to invest in the installations through a community share offer.
The SLDC group then had a tour of James Cropper to see the community-owned solar PV installations.

“It was a thoroughly positive afternoon, which we hope has given SLDC more knowledge about the possibilities,” said Rhona Pringle from CAfS, who organised the event. “SLDC declared a climate emergency in February and the event should be helpful as they look at ways to progress their climate change agenda. It’s been a great opportunity for CAfS to share positive experiences from projects that we’ve helped to kick start.”