Image credit: Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network
From a UK resident pushing 100 neighbors to go solar to a town installing solar on its brewery roof, Britain seems to be on fire with interesting solar initiatives right now. With the UK government pledging 50% emissions cuts by 2025, you'd hope they are going to keep coming. At least one town is stepping up to the plate, setting out a bold vision to be the country's first solar-powered town. But Government policy could hinder as well as help this ambitious scheme.The Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN) clearly isn't into the idea of starting small. In fact, plans are afoot to generate 30% of the town's electricity from solar by 2015. WREN is starting installations with 100 homes, half of which will be buying the systems themselves, and half of which will be funded through a partnership between solar provider Solarcentury and Triodos Bank.
Schemes like these have only become possible through the government's ambitious solar feed-in tariffs, which have kickstarted major investment in solar across the country. However, recent moves to review the feed-in tariff program and restrict payments to larger utility-scale installations could threaten the viability of Wadebridge's efforts, say advocates from the We Support Solar campaign. Stephen Frankel, founder, founder of WREN, puts it like this :
"We have just installed our first ten solar systems, the first of what we believe will be well over a hundred in the town. The response has been overwhelming now that people see solar actually starting to go in. Our motivation is to become more self-sufficient due to the rising price of fossil fuel and our concern for our environment. Our town has great irradiance levels so we knew we had an opportunity with solar to generate a local, low carbon income stream, and be a model for the rest of the UK. Now the Feed-in tariff is here, we could turn that dream into a reality with the finance generated. However we do need to use as much space as possible to meet our needs, the Governments proposals to limit the Feed-in tariff to 50kWp means we can't go ahead with our larger projects which would bring much needed income into our community fund."
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