Balcombe residents ditch fracking for solar power

Jessica Shankleman

New co-operative aims to install £300,000 worth of solar arrays in and around village

Residents of Balcombe, the Sussex village which last summer became the centre of anti-fracking protests, have formed a new co-operative that aims to harness the power of the sun for electricity.

The new REPOWER Balcombe co-operative initially aims to raise £300,000 in a community share offering for six solar arrays on roofs in and around the village that will supply 7.5 per cent of the village's power demand.

In the longer term, it hopes solar will provide all of its electricity needs.

Today the co-operative announced it has signed a lease to host the first 19kw array on the roof of a cow shed, at a local family-owned farm. Talks are under way about a further five sites, which could be fitted with solar this spring.

Each project is expected to deliver at least a five per cent return to investors during the 20-year lifetime of the scheme, while any profits will be ploughed into a community benefit fund.

REPOWER Balcombe spokesman Joe Nixon said the solar panels would provide a cleaner alternative to shale gas. "We all need energy, but buying dirty fossil power from giant utilities is no longer the only option," he said.

"Advances in renewable technology mean that communities like ours can now generate the energy we need ourselves, locally, in a way that benefits us directly instead of big power companies - and helps the environment instead of harming it. This is win-win for Balcombe and for the planet."

Earlier this year, fracking firm Cuadrilla scrapped its plans to frack for oil in Balcombe, as the rocks at the site already contain natural fractures.

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