Investing in Social Enterprise
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Steve Palmer - Barnsley Community Build
Harnessing Water Power for a New Generation
Over 600 years of history is playing a key part in modern energy production in the community of Whalley in Lancashire. Close to a ruined Cistercian Abbey, the proposed site for a new hydro-electricity generating station takes water flowing directly from the weir which was built by monks in the 1380’s.
Perfectly situated in an important water catchment area on the river Calder in the Ribble Valley, the hydroelectric power plant will generate 100kw, which over a year equates to around 380,000kWh, which will then be sold into the electricity grid and redistributed by the power companies for domestic and industrial use. Benefiting from the higher level government Feed-In-Tariffs, revenues generated by the scheme will be re-directed into a range of green energy solutions such as solar power and ground source heat pumps in the Whalley community.
The vision of the founding members is to provide protection for the local community against rising energy costs and also to reduce the environmental impact of energy produced using carbon fuels. Harnessing the natural energy of the River Calder, with minimal environmental impact, the hydro- electric equipment being installed is based on the traditional Archimedean Screw principle, will have an important future contribution for over 40 years.
Early planning stages in project developments such as this are notoriously difficult, yet critical, to attract funds to get the project started. Key Fund commitment of £10,000 from the Community Renewables Fund (supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation) enabled the Whalley Community Hydro directors to initiate the planning submission to the local authority and lodge applications with the Environment Agency.
Chris Gathercole, Chair of the enterprise explains “Developing the project from initial concept stage has been a real challenge, especially as financial institutions simply do not lend to micro-hydro projects in the early stages as they are seen as high risk before permissions are granted. Key Fund’s unique status and approach has enabled us to get the project started in a meaningful way with the initial applications. Indeed, without the vital Key Fund investment in our project it’s unlikely we would have achieved the progress we have and we are working hard to progress to the next phase of fundraising involving the wider Whalley community and beyond”.
With a planned completion date in late 2012, the Whalley Communty Hydro Scheme sends a powerful, inspiring message to other communities to demonstrate what can be achieved with the effort of committed individuals combined with a strong community spirit and sense to provide for others.
Key Fund is keen to support similar social enterprise ventures. To find out if this fund could help to get your business off the ground, please contact us.