The Green Valleys Community Interest Company

The Green Valleys Community Interest Company: Water and Wood: A renewable Wales

Brecon, United KingdomBrecon, United Kingdom
Year Founded:
2009
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Established
Budget: 
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We will regenerate our region through the generation of decentralised, citizen owned renewable energy. We will see the income invested back in communities and rural industries and use this as a catalyst for social and environmental regeneration. We will create a sustainable future for rural Wales.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

Economically challenged rural areas could become net exporters of citizen owned renewable energy?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

There are a number of challenges facing rural Wales; low economic base, vulnerability to climate change, dependency on fossil fuels, high household carbon emissions, reducing viability of hill farms leading to loss of farmers, land management skills and out-movement of younger generations, within a landscape of vulnerable upland peat (carbon store), steep ground, high rainfall, small dispersed settlements and reduced, unmanaged woodland cover.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Using renewables to regenerate our environment, society and economy with citizen and community owned projects using sustainable natural resources. Our topography, settlement pattern and rainfall are well suited to generate energy from small (c.7-35kW) capacity high head hydro schemes, which we design and install. Numerous small schemes create resilience and shared ownership of the generating capacity and creates viable hill farms, keeping the next generation farming. It incentivises restoring wet peatlands, storing carbon and limiting flood/drought. Community owned schemes are being developed on public land so benefits can be shared. We also create community woodland groups to generate wood fuel and restore habitat through citizen action.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Community owned 25kW scheme exporting directly to the grid. The grant funded design and permission of approximately £15,000, construction cost £150,000, annual FIT income £23,000. Down to £20,000 a year after allowing for maintenance, repairs, and rental. The community benefit will depend on the cost of finance and the proportion of grant funding for the construction. Over the 20 year life of the FIT regime this might amount to as £400,000 to the community. This can then be further invested. 15kW farm scheme may generate £15,000 in FIT income, reduce energy bills by up to £2,000 (electricity and part heating substitution) on a cost of £100,000. After the c. 7 year payback, the income from the hydro may well exceed that from agriculture.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We have: Built 16 schemes with total peak output =312 kW; secured planning permission for 33 schemes with total peak output =546 kW; received NRW abstraction licences for 35 schemes with total peak output =661 kW; 7 sites currently in construction with total peak output =154 kW(as of December 2014); a further 30 other projects (not included above) in design and planning =725 kW peak capacity. The total annual output of all 70 projects either in design and planning, with licences or planning permission, in construction, or completed =1,535 kW. Of these 70 projects 41 are for private landowners, 20 are for community groups, 9 are for the National Trust Wales. Assuming the Co2 reduction to be 450g / kWh then the constructed scheme CO2 saving is approximately 562 tonnes. Our 8 community woodland groups have generated approximately 250 cu m of stacked logs saving 100000kg Co2e

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We estimate up to 3,000 opportunities in Wales for schemes <50kW of which only a minority have been evaluated and perhaps only 1-200 have been/are being developed. Beyond Wales, the design and construction methods we have developed can be applied to any high head location. The benefits of renewable energy to isolated rural communities is clear and hydros are quite simple electro-mechanical systems that can be understood and maintained without high technical capacity. Going forward we aim to focus more on community schemes and to develop our own schemes that will provide our long term funding.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Hydro: Commissioned area studies have indicated several hundred potentially viable schemes in Wales and we have a series of clients queued through design/permission/build phases. FIT and energy generation offer sound financial models and the potential customer base could extend beyond Wales in the future. This profitable enterprise will fund other aspects of the business including the woodland work and other community led sustainability projects

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Hydro: We are the only company that specialises in high head micro hydro and that offers an end to end service from initial scoping to completed installation and maintenance. Other companies offer solutions with other renewable technologies, but these are often more limited in their suitability to Wales, in particular areas of protected/high landscape value. Other hydro installers focus on design or larger capacity schemes. Woodland: Many charitable/3rd sector organisations advise on woodland management but we are the only group actively creating, training and supporting groups directly
Team

Founding Story

The Green Valleys was formed by community members to win the Big Green Challenge Prize (NESTA 2010). The prize inspired 2 friends (an ecologist and a community energy advisor) to meet in a local pub and develop a project to win the prize. The conversation explored the challenges and vulnerabilities of rural Wales to a changing climate, fossil fuel dependency, fragile environment and volatile global economy. The prize was an opportunity to solve these problems in a holistic and community centred way to ensure benefits were shared. Realising that numerous small hydro schemes could provide income, a shift away from fossil fuels, catalyse regeneration of the environment and do so through community engagement inspired all that we have achieved.

Team

Directors: 6 volunteer directors from the communities we support, and 3 independent advisors to the board. TGVHydro: Managing Director, Design & Permissions Specialists x2, Construction Manager, Construction supervisor x2, Sales and Customer contact, numerous contracted specialists and general contractors. TGVCIC: Woodland and Community Projects Manager, Community Support Officer
About You
About You
First Name

Gareth

Last Name

Ellis

About Your Project
Organization Name
How long has your organization been operating?

Project
Organization Country

, POW, Brecon

Country where this project is creating social impact

, POW, Brecon

Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Regional government, National government, Customers.

Supplemental
Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?

NESTA's Big Green Challenge 2010
Santander Social Enterprise Development Award 2012
Renewables UK Cymru Awards 2013 - Best Community Project
Finalist – Climate Week Awards 2013
Highly Commended – Tidy Wales Awards 2013
Finalist Renewables UK Cymru Awards 2014 - Supply Chain Development

Where have you learnt about the competition?

Direct email invitation

Tell us about your partnerships:

National Trust Wales - preferred supplier for hydro schemes
Hydrolite - a specialist turbine and hydro component manufacturer that benefitted from start up funding and advice from TGVHydro.
Brecon Beacons National Park Authority - provided staff and expertise during project development and seconded staff to ensure growth of community facing aspects.
Community Energy Wales - creates a voice for a variety of renewable energy technologies

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Political change leading to policy, subsidy and regulation change, especially if this leads to less focus on community action on resource efficiency and renewable generation. We are vulnerable to further changes in Feed-in Tariff policy. We remain active in our discussions with DECC and Welsh Government and play an active role in lobbying for the community energy sector through our leading role in Community Energy Wales. Tightening of regulatory framework for hydro schemes remains an issue, however we continue to work for with Natural Resources Wales on their Stakeholder Group

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