This website began with a scholarship from the Wingate Foundation. Below is an outline of what I hope to achieve lifted from my scholarship application.
Community Renewable Energy – Learning the Lessons
Summary: Learn from community wind, hydro, solar and biomass renewable energy schemes. Tell the story of these developments to encourage other communities to embark on projects and provide information for a supporting book and website.
Social Learning Theory suggests that people and communities learn valuable lessons from their peers and other communities rather than textbooks, experts and government advisors. This project aims to gather the experience of communities that have developed successful renewable energy technology. The focus is largely on developments that primarily benefit communities rather than corporate investors. Making this social and technological experience available to a wider audience will encourage other communities to embark on projects that address the problems of climate change and energy security while simultaneously improving social cohesion and strengthening local economies.
Community renewable energy developments invariably have a human narrative alongside the technological story. It is just as important to appreciate how individuals come together and start the process, how they overcome obstacles and how they benefit from success as it is to understand the engineering and planning processes. To understand these dual stories it is necessary to visit the projects, interview key participants as well as those on the fringes, and tell authentic stories in a language accessible to all.
I am involved in three community renewable energy schemes in Devon and part of the Transition Streets Steering Group, a project funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. It is my experience that projects frequently have to ‘re-invent the wheel’ because it is difficult to access the experience and lessons of similar projects. The research I propose will improve this.
I plan to visit twenty sites in the UK and Ireland as well as Samso in Denmark. These sites include developments in wind, hydro, solar and biomass renewable energy as well as shared domestic heating, combined heat and power systems and community based energy supply companies. To make the experiences relevant to as wide an audience as possible the projects range from small developments providing energy to just a few homes up to those covering several thousand homes. Narratives and technical details for individual domestic renewable energy systems are widely available elsewhere and will not be included in this project.
Samso is the world’s largest carbon neutral community with an instructive history in developing community renewable energy schemes.
Each project visit requires initial research, establishing contacts, agreeing a programme for tour of the site and recorded interviews, report preparation and further consultation with the project participants. All project visits will be available through a dedicated website which includes technical specifications, recorded interviews and filmed tours of the sites as well as textual material. The website will also provide links to those projects that have them as well as other relevant sources of information.
Research results could also form the basis of a new book in the Transition series, ‘Local Energy – How to make it happen in your community’ which I am discussing with the Transition Network and Green Books.
Year 1: Initial research and site selection, establishing contacts, site visits and initial drafts of reports.
Year 2: Establish and promote web site and, if appropriate, write book.