Community-owned Solar Powers Brewery
By Mike Grenville 6th May 2011
A project to put solar panels on the roof of Harvey’s brewery in Lewes is tantalisingly close with only about £20,000 still to be raised to be able to place the order.
The Harvey’s array on the beer chill roof will be one of Britain’s first community-owned solar power stations. Guaranteed for 25 years, there is no reason why the panels assembled in Wales should not go on producing electricity for 50 years.
Ovesco (Ouse Valley Energy Services Company), an offshoot of Transition Lewes, launched the Harvey’s Roof scheme on Tuesday April 19th at Lewes Town Hall, offering a share issue for the capital cost of £307,000.
There is an important time constraint due to the Government’s recent decision to reduce the top rate feed-in tariff from 100kW to 50kW on August 1st 2011. All the money must be raised by early May in order to be sure of beating this deadline.
To be able to place an order with the installer by 9th May, Ovesco need to raise 80% of the share issue, and as of Friday 6th May there was only £20k left to raise. Additional potential investors then have until the 27th May to supply the last 20% of funds the projects needs for completion. If OVESCO goes over the £307,000 they will ask investors if they want their shares to be used for further projects.
OVESCO Limited has received planning permission for the installation on Harvey’s roof of 544 photovoltaic (PV) panels that will generate 92,000 kilowatt hours of green electricity each year – enough to save more than 40 tonnes of CO2 annually.
The launch evening began with £170k already pledged. This has now grown to £223k invested with a further £48k pledged leaving only about £30,000 to raise the full amount. Anyone in the UK can invest in this scheme. Investing in the scheme is a mixture of community and personal benefit. Interest will be paid via the new solar PV feed-in tariffs, which are guaranteed by the government for 25 years. Money invested will be repaid in full at the end of the 25 year scheme, or earlier at the request of the investor and subject to conditions. While the investment is held a dividend will be paid after the first year which is expected to be 4% if the full amount can be raised from investors; if they have to take out a commercial loan the return will be lower.
Speaking at the share launch, Norman Baker, MP for Lewes and Transport Minister said that “energy should be bottom up not top down”. He also emphasised the importance of retro-fitting homes with energy efficiency which would reduce the need for electricity generation. Baker said, “with issues of energy security, Peak Oil and gas coming from unstable regimes, even those who aren’t green can see the point in developing renewables in the short term.” Dismissing nuclear power as “unable to be developed without substantial subsidy”, Baker said that currently “the amount of renewables in this country is pathetic.”
Huw Irranca-Davies, MP for Gower and Shadow Energy Minister agreed adding that nuclear provides energy for frothy uses, noting how everything in Tokyo is lit with neon but after Fukushima the city went dark. “Fukushima has helped us take a proper view of the total cost of nuclear” he said. However he went on to say that while one incident should not determine policy, in his view the most dangerous energy is coal. He said that renewables are critical to energy security and that in the UK we have the best opportunity in the world with wind, wave and tidal, but the financial mechanisms to take advantage are not there. “What we see here tonight is a model to go round the country” he said.
Another speaker at the launch, Sara Parkin from Forum for the Future said that we needed to move away from nuclear, coal and also big wind. “The battle is between big and small energy” she said. To reduce the transmission waste “we need to get the generation sources near to where we are – and the answer to that is small scale renewables”. However “there is no silver bullet” said Parkin, but “every little helps and adds up to a lot”.
Once Ovesco has got this scheme going it is looking at other places for local energy generation including Lewes Football club.
There is still time to invest this weekend – contact Ovesco
Here is a film of Chris Rowland of OVESCO on the roof where the panels will be installed…
and a video of the launch
Rob Hopkins has written a ‘Transition Ingredient’ about “Investing in Transition” which covers the many ways Transition Initiatives can invest in their local communities