A Denbighshire town’s very own renewable hydro-electric scheme promising power to the people has been hailed a success by Wales’s energy minister.
Lesley Griffiths AM, the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, visited Corwen to officially open Corwen Electricity Cooperative’s hydro-electric scheme.
The Cabinet Secretary, the Assembly Member for Wrexham, attended the launch of the scheme at the town’s Canolfan Ni and then visited the town’s turbine house for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The turbine house is in the town centre and is driven by the Nant y Pigyn and Nant Cawrddu streams which plunge 500 feet from a reservoir high above Corwen to generate 55 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to supply 40 homes a year.
The Minister Cabinet Secretary said: “This is a wonderful example of a renewable energy scheme which is operated by local people who have played a huge part in the project from the very start.
“We are delighted to support the scheme through both our Rural Development programme and our Local Energy service, working together to help the community deliver a robust locally owned project.
“They and the community are now benefitting from this project which can be the template be an inspiration for further schemes across Wales.
“It is also an excellent example of how decarbonisation can put people back in charge of their local energy system.”
The scheme is largely entirely owned by local people who are now set to benefit from cheaper electricity.
It’s payback time for them after an issue of £1 shares raised £318,000, over half of them bought locally, to fund the project which was developed by rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd.
The agency provided a £12,000 feasibility study through LEADER as part of the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is financed by the Welsh Government and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
LEADER is a fund for rural areas in Wales to explore innovative new approaches and experimental technologies to tackle poverty, create jobs and drive sustainable economic development.
The Co-operative have now helped set up the Corwen Energy Club which aims to start repaying local residents for their backing with cheaper electricity.
Membership is free and dependent on postcode and is likely to save households £100 a year on their energy bills with each member able to access a mobile phone app which will tell them when the scheme is generating cheap electricity for them.
The Chairman of the Co-operative is local businessman Mike Paice who has invested in the share issue and he said: “Cadwyn Clwyd have been brilliant in helping us set this scheme up and it’s now been running over a year.
“It’s producing the electricity that it was forecast to do and we can even control it from anywhere in the world with an app on a mobile phone.
“We’re so pleased with how it has worked that we are now looking at setting up a second scheme at Bonwm on the A5 which should generate even more power.
“It has been a really good project which has seen local people coming together and working to benefit the community.”
Silas Jones, the Cadwyn Clwyd Project Officer who has overseen the scheme, said: “It’s a fantastic example of people power and of power to the people and we’ve been so impressed by the support the project has had, not just in Corwen but across the UK.
“Local people bought 55 per cent of the shares but the rest went to people looking to make a return on their investment and to support renewable energy.
“Over its 40-year lifespan of receiving government feed-in tariffs we estimate the project will generate £1.2 million with £120,000 going directly to community benefit for local organisations and good causes.”
Cadwyn Clwyd spotted the potential for using the Nant-y-Pigyn stream and landowner Lord Newborough supported them as over 700 metres of pipework were laid to a purpose-built generator house and the scheme was commissioned in December 2016.
The money they have provided is from a pot of almost £8 million of funding which is being administered by the Corwen-based agency and is part of the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. The cash is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government as part of a six-year plan to revitalise rural communities and their economies.
To date Cadwyn Clwyd has allocated over £5 million on LEADER projects across Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham, liaising with Local Action Groups who have had the final say on funding.
Since 1995 Cadwyn Clwyd has attracted over £30 million in European funding for North East Wales’s rural areas and has successfully rolled out the Prince of Wales’s favourite charity, Pub is the Hub, across eight counties of Wales, bringing new life to many rural pubs and their communities.
They have also run the Welsh Government’s Glastir agri-environment scheme with partner organisations Menter Mon, from Anglesey, and Planed, Pembrokeshire, which ploughed £35 million into the Welsh rural economy between 2011 and 2015 to help farmers and graziers on common land.
Cadwyn Clwyd has helped secure the future of major local events like the Hamper Llangollen and Mold Food Festivals as well as encouraging local food producers and launching the award-winning Pwllglas Community Shop near Ruthin, while their bursaries have given a kick-start to small businesses and young entrepreneurs in Flintshire and Denbighshire as well and they funded a Strategy and Action Plan which secured the Europarc Charter Status of sustainable Tourism for the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB.