Corwen is on course to be one of the greenest towns in Wales thanks to a ground-breaking energy project aimed at cutting local electricity bills and making money for renewable energy providers – and for the community.
The town already has its own community hydro-electric project fed from the Pen y Pigyn Reservoir but now it wants to broaden its appeal to sign up 60 local households to join CEL – Corwen Energy Local.
The scheme is being run by South Denbighshire Community Partnership who are based in Corwen and are particularly keen to enlist stakeholders with their own generating capacity – owners of solar panel and other systems able to feed power into the grid.
That power would be added to the energy generated by the town’s hydro-electric power plant which is fed by the Pen y Pigyn reservoir and they could cash in on their contribution.
At the same time homeowners in an area blighted by fuel-poverty could save up to £300 a year from their electricity bills – and some of the profits from the scheme will be channeled into a special fund which could provide £2,000 a year for local community projects.
Wales’s national community energy project, Energy Local Cic, is showing savings of between 10 and 30 per cent for households in Bethesda, where it launched its first scheme, and experts believe similar returns could be expected in Corwen.
SDCP Chief Officer Margaret Sutherland said: “It’s very exciting for Corwen to be at the forefront of a scheme like this and we’re already showing the way with the community hydro project which will be one of the partners in this scheme.
“Research we have carried out has shown there are real issues with rural and fuel poverty in Edeyrnion and we hope this is the start of addressing that.
“Corwen can become a model for others to follow as the town develops into a hub of renewable energy and there is scope for this to be extended in the future.
“The area is a real hotbed of green energy with the windfarms being built just up the road on the Denbigh Moors.”
Energy Local is also on board in Corwen and renewable energy expert Mary Gillie, a key figure in the success of the Bethesda scheme, is playing an active role in advising on the Corwen project.
She said: “It has worked very well in Bethesda and the savings have been significant and we are now trying to include community hydro and solar schemes in the same way Corwen is aiming for.
“Smart meters can tell you every half hour if energy is being generated whether it’s a community hydro scheme or a solar array on a house like mine and if I’m not using it then it goes into the grid and the community is paid for it and that saving can be shared by the stakeholders.
“If someone is generating more electricity than they’re using then that will also go into the grid and they can earn money from that which can make it more financially viable to install solar panels.”
Residents of Corwen and the surrounding villages of Glyndyfrdwy, Llidiart y Parc, Carrog, Cynwyd, Gwyddelwern, Bryn SM and Bryneglwys will be eligible to sign up with Energy Local Corwen and a meeting is to be held in the town at Canolfan Ni on Thursday, January 16, at 7pm.
The Corwen Hydro Project which is a partner in CEL generates electricity at a turbine house in the town centre driven by the Nant y Pigyn and Nant Cawrddu streams which plunge 500 feet from a reservoir high above Corwen to generate 55 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to supply up to 40 homes a year.
Over its 40-year lifespan of receiving government feed-in tariffs it is estimated that the project will generate £1.2 million with £120,000 going directly to community benefit for local organisations and good causes.
The scheme is publicly owned and it is also payback time for them after an issue of £1 shares raised £318,000, over half of them bought locally, to fund the project which was developed by rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd.
The agency provided a £12,000 feasibility study through its LEADER fund as part of the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is financed by the Welsh Government and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
For more information on the Energy Local Corwen project and South Denbighshire Community Partnership go to http://www.canolfan-ni.org/ and to https://www.facebook.com/SouthDenbighshireCommunityPartnership/ and for more on Cadwyn Clwyd go to http://cadwynclwyd.co.uk/