Locals rally to back town’s home-grown renewable energy project

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A plan to transform Corwen into one of Wales’s greenest towns with its own renewable energy scheme fed by locally-generated hydro and solar power systems has won the support of residents.

The Corwen Energy Local project is scheduled to go live in April and aims to sign up 60 households to switch to low-cost, eco-friendly power, much of it produced on their own doorstep.

The plans were confirmed at a well-attended public meeting called by South Denbighshire Community Partnership at the town’s Canolfan Ni when it was confirmed that 48 homeowners have already registered interest in the project.

The principal source of local power will come from Corwen Hydro – the town’s hydro-electric power plant fed by the Pen y Pigyn reservoir – but the numbers expressing interest include several with their own solar power systems.

These include SDCP itself which, with funding from the National Lottery Climate Action Fund, has installed 24 solar panels on the roof of Canolfan Ni and SDCP Chief Officer Margaret Sutherland said: “We have worked with national umbrella organisation Energy Local Cic that Wales is proud to have kick started and who have a similar scheme running in Bethesda.

“But really the roots of this project were put down seven years ago when local people had a vision that water could be piped from the reservoir above town on Pen y Pigyn to alleviate flooding and provide an energy source.

“The plan now is to form an energy co-operative to benefit from the scheme and I’m really pleased at the response here where we have had a lot of people asking good questions and showing interest in signing up.

“This is an area blighted by households experiencing fuel poverty who often use electricity pre-payment meters and very often find themselves paying the highest rate. As the scheme expands this can help them.

“The plan is to match local generation to local demand and enable households in the community to benefit from the energy generated locally.”

The principal source of that energy is the Corwen Hydro Project which produced power on all but three days of 2019 and when that power is being generated households in the scheme will pay just 8p per kilowatt hour of electricity.

That is in in contrast to normal peak rates between 7am and 8pm which vary between 18p and 22p per KwH and Joel Scott, a director of Cowen Hydro, said: “Projects like this make it far more viable in future to do more hydro schemes.

“As long as the hydro scheme is generating electricity then the people in the scheme will be paying less than even the cheapest basic rate of 10p per KwH and any excess income can be spent on community benefits so it will be a win-win for the community.”

When the hydro scheme isn’t generating then members of Corwen Energy Local will be supplied with electricity by Octopus Energy which receives all its supply from renewable sources.

Octopus will also install a smart meter in each of the 60 households to provide information every half hour on where the supply is coming from so residents can choose to switch on washing machines and dishwashers when Corwen Hydro is generating and the cheapest rate is being charged.

It is also hoped to attract households with their own energy sources, such as solar power, which can also feed into the system and one of those at the meeting was Sheila McIntosh, of Penybryn, Corwen, who lives just below the reservoir.

She said: “I’m very interested and would like to know a lot more. I like the idea of green energy which is why I installed a solar system and rainwater harvesting when I built my house in 2008.

“I also like to keep things local so I’d be pleased if there was a benefit to the community and as someone who generates her own power this could reduce my energy bills still further.”

Hayley Trowbridge, from Glyndyrdwy, said: “We’re thinking of installing solar panels and I like the idea of a green energy community project.

“It’s not just about saving money on our bills that appeals to me but the idea of doing something that benefits people locally.

“Elsewhere in Europe this sort of scheme works and it would be great if it could work here.

“Throughout history we have changed the way we get our energy and this is something new, innovative and different.”

Roger Hayward, from Corwen, a Trustee of SDCP, said: “I was very impressed with what I heard, I went there quite open-minded but I was so impressed that I’ve signed up and also signed up a neighbour.

“I really like the idea that you capture water in the mountains above Corwen and use it to generate electricity.

“It’s fantastic that people have put their own money into the Corwen Hydro Project not to make money but to benefit the community by making use of our natural resources.”

Keith Sayle, who is moving to Corwen from Maerdy, said: “I’ve switched to Octopus already because my previous supplier was costing me a fortune.

“I heard about Energy Local and I can’t wait for it to start because if I can get my energy even cheaper then I’ll be delighted and it will be good for the town as well.”

For more on Corwen Energy Project and to register an interest in the project go to www.energylocal.org.uk and for more on South Denbighshire Community Project go to https://www.canolfan-ni.org/ and to https://www.facebook.com/SouthDenbighshireCommunityPartnership/