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South Hams community housing project wins green energy funding from the South West Energy Hub

A new development of affordable housing for local people in Harberton in Devon’s South Hams, could benefit from its own supply of solar energy, thanks to a grant awarded by the South West Energy Hub.

The South West Energy Hub is a partnership between South West LEPs to encourage investment into energy infrastructure and to improve the way that energy is used, supplied or distributed.

The Harberton and Harbertonford Community Land Trust is developing a 12-home site with planning permission for the installation of a series of solar panels. The trust has received a Rural Community Energy Fund grant of just over £9,000 to test the feasibility of setting up a community-owned ‘micro-grid’, meaning that energy from the panels could be used to supply the homes directly rather than via the national grid.

If successful, this innovative set-up would help to reduce fuel costs for households within the land trust while providing a source of clean, green energy.

The proposed panels would be mounted on top of a number of car ports (rather than on the roofs of the houses) to minimise the visual impact of the installation. The houses themselves will be constructed to a highly energy-efficient ‘Passivhaus’ specification.

Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP said: “This is the first South West Energy Hub project in the Heart of the South West area, and more projects with follow that aim to improve people’s access to clean energy. Clean and inclusive growth are values that are central to the LEP’s emerging Local Industrial Strategy and our Route Map to Recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, and I look forward to seeing more projects like this from our partnership with the other South West LEPs in the Hub.”

Nick Williams spokesperson for the CLT said: “The micro-grid will help both the residents of the new development as the majority are on low incomes and for the wider community we are providing an electric car scheme to demonstrate both the potential for the technology but also to help cut down on second cars which are only used occasionally. Without this grant it is doubtful if our budget could have stretched undertaking this innovative scheme”. 

Jon Rattenbury, Programme Manager for the South West Energy Hub said: “This project is a great example of how the power of green energy can be used not only to help the environment but also for the benefit of the local community. It also shows that renewable energy can be viable at many different scales – relatively small projects like this can still make an important contribution towards tackling the climate emergency and reducing fuel poverty. We hope other communities in the South West will be inspired to follow this example.”

The Community Land Trust’s process for allocating homes prioritises families who currently live in housing need in the villages of Harberton and Harbertonford.

If the feasibly study makes the microgrid option seem economically viable, the project team will hold further engagement events with Community Land Trust group to have their input on how the virtual energy company would operate and issues of metering, billing, supplier switching etc.

The Rural Community Energy Fund is delivered by the South West Energy Hub on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). The energy hub is led by the West of England Combined Authority, working in partnership with Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership