Share issue for Corwen hydro-electric scheme brings power to the people

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Shares have gone on sale in a ground-breaking community hydro-electric power scheme which could make more than a quarter of a million pounds over 20 years.

The Corwen Electricity Co-operative, which expects to gross over £800,000 in that time, has just launched a share offer for 300,000 £1 shares and is looking for investors for the ambitious project which could earn the Denbighshire town over £12,000.

The shares are on sale now with a minimum investment required of £250 and already over 100,000 have been snapped up.

The co-operative has appointed four directors to oversee the share offer which will pay for a generating plant to be built in Corwen, powered by water from a reservoir in the hills above the town.

They are local businessmen Mike Paice, Glaves Roberts and Ifor Sion and engineer Joel Scott who are leading the drive to sell off the shares.

The scheme was the brainchild of rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd who worked with Denbighshire County Council, Natural Resources Wales and the Rhug Estate to develop the plans.

Water from the Nant y Pigyn stream 500 feet above Corwen and flowing at up to 50 litres a second will power a 55 kilowatt generator housed in a purpose-built building in the town and connected to the National Grid.

A feasibility study showed that the Nant y Pigyn scheme could generate 135,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power over 30 homes.

It was made possible by working with Denbighshire County Council whose flood alleviation scheme prevents the parallel Nant Cawrddu stream, which passes through a culvert under the 14th century Owain Glyndwr Hotel, from flooding the centre of town.

The £300,000 cost of the pipe, building, generator and connection to the National Grid will be paid for by the share issue and work will start as soon as the shares are sold out.

The Government’s electricity feed-in tariffs will then provide a guaranteed income for 20 years. Some of this income will need to be spent on running costs. Some income will be used to repay capital and to pay interest on shares and the remaining income will form a community fund, projected to be £500 per year.

The interest on shares which shareholders receive is projected to average 4 per cent a year over the 20 years. Shareholders will be able to claim tax relief on shares if the application is received before the end of March.

Mike Paice, from Cynwyd, said: “I’m interested in the community getting a lift from this and I’d like to think it would all be sold out in the next month or so.

“Anyone can buy shares in the scheme and shares will be allocated on a first come first served basis.”

Glaves Roberts added: “I would like to see it help local people with the work providing employment opportunities here and some money for the community as well.

“We’ve got all this water coming down so we might as well make use of it.

“We have worked closely with Denbighshire County Council and their flood alleviation scheme has really made this possible.

“It’s good to see that things are happening in the town – the steam train is here now and now we’re on the verge of having one of Wales’s first community hydro-electric power schemes.”

A public meeting two years ago helped set the wheels in motion and organisational experts Sharenergy, of Shrewsbury, who are experts in setting up renewable energy co-operatives, helped establish the not-for-profit community co-operative in Corwen.

The company now has a website, www.corwenelectricity.org.uk, and details of the share offer along with application forms are available online.  Alternatively, you can phone Sharenergy for information on 01743 277119.

Silas Jones, Renewable Energy Officer for Cadwyn Clwyd, said: “The flood alleviation scheme made the hydro project possible and if we can get local people and local organisations involved then it can be a real boost to Corwen for years to come and provide a regular income to benefit the area.

“Successful similar community schemes run elsewhere in Wales, notably in the Brecon Beacons through the Green Valleys organisation but this is the first in North East Wales and one of the first in a town.”