Rural Community Energy Fund

Projects Funded

Read here about projects in the Greater South East region that are being supported by the Rural Community Energy Fund. Or click on the menu bar or button above and get an introduction to the Fund, find out how to apply and view frequently asked questions.

Renewable Heating for Thames Valley Athletic Centre

Thames Valley Athletic Centre is a community sports facility and regional athletics hub in Berkshire. Its facilities include a health club, sports hall, 400 metre running track, children’s activities and meeting rooms. It is a key recreational resource for a high number of people across the local area. MaidEnergy, a volunteer-led community benefit society, is helping the Centre transfer to renewable forms of energy, to save money and reduce its carbon impact. Having already installed 67kW of community-financed solar panels at the Centre, MaidEnergy was awarded a grant from the Rural Community Energy Fund to commission a feasibility study. This examined the technical and financial feasibility of a low carbon heat source for the Centre to replace its ageing gas boilers. The Centre is close to a river, so the study initially investigated the option of a water source heat pump but concluded that an 87kW ground source heat pump with a vertical borehole is a more suitable solution. A business plan has been developed to confirm that the project is financially viable, and a community share offer will be used to raise the estimated £195k cost required. Project award: Stage 1 feasibility grant £18.5k.

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Cuckmere Community Solar - A World First

Cuckmere Community Solar has an ambition to power the rail network in East Sussex with solar energy – a world first. Working in collaboration with Riding Sunbeams, the organisation aims that its pioneering project will establish a template that can be used by other future solar-powered rail initiatives.

Cuckmere Community Solar plans to build a new 4MW solar farm at Berwick, East Sussex. This will enable the local community to benefit from a higher income from renewable energy generation, and for the rail network to benefit from cheaper, low carbon power. The Rural Community Energy Fund has provided grant funding for the development stage of the project. This includes the cost of studies, land agreements, investigation of the connection point and legal work. RCEF Project award: Stage 2 development grant £95.5k.

The project has also recently received capital funding support from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership‘s £85 million share of the government’s Getting Building Fund, which aims to help economic recovery. The new funding will support the capital costs of the 4MW solar farm.

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Enborne Solar Farm

Calleva Community Energy is working in partnership with the Poors Allotment Charity to investigate the feasibility of building a 1-2MW solar farm on 20 acres of land owned by the charity, in the parish of Enborne, Berkshire. The local community is keen to offset its collective carbon emissions, which have been calculated to equate to a 1MW farm. Profits from the solar farm will be used to benefit parish residents, in line with the objectives of the Charity. The project has been awarded funding for a feasibility study to assess the viability of a solar farm on the site, inform its technical design and assess the availability of an affordable grid connection. Project award: Stage 1 feasibility grant £39.9k

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Renewable Heating Ambition - Forest Row & Barcombe

Heating oil is the most common and carbon-intensive way to heat rural properties without access to the gas network. Forest Row Energy Coop is working in partnership with Barcombe Energy Group to address this issue. The organisations aim to transition rural communities in the Forest Row and Barcombe areas of East Sussex from the use of oil heating to a renewable option. This goal has gained the support of local people. The Fund is supporting Forest Row Energy Coop to engage a consultant to carry out a feasibility study involving a sample of 50 properties. The work aims to establish how to make the installation of renewable heating in rural properties viable and affordable. Project award: Stage 1 feasibility grant £39.5k

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Bore Place Community – Moving forward on Decarbonisation

Bore Place community in Kent is to home to both residents and rural businesses as well as being a venue for education programmes. The community has already taken steps to decarbonise its activities and has installed renewable power generation and heating on the site. Bore Place now seeks to make further progress with renewable generation to supply more power to buildings and to provide charging points for electric vehicles. A grant from the Fund will support a feasibility study to assess the technical viability of this aspiration. Project award: Stage 1 feasibility grant £21k

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Firle Renewable Heat Network

Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo) a project to transition the rural village of Firle in East Sussex from carbon intensive oil heating to renewable heating. This will be achieved by constructing a heat network, which will provide renewable heat to buildings in the village from ground source heat pumps. The energy efficiency of buildings will also be improved. Community support for the project has already been established. It is intended that the Cooperative will own, operate and maintain the network, and that ‘heat as a service’ agreements will be arranged with Firle residents, to pay for the energy efficiency and renewable heat provided. Project award: Stage 2 development grant £80.5k

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Solar-Powered Rail Networks

The Rural Community Energy Fund is supporting two further projects which seek to develop solar farms to power the local rail network. These are being developed by Community Energy South in Kent and Essex. Both are part of the Riding Sunbeams initiative. The two projects are at a much earlier stage than the related Cuckmere Community Solar rail project, so they will be able to benefit from any learning that it gains. The Fund is providing support for feasibility studies for the solar farms in Kent and Essex, which aim to establish that the selected technology is fit for purpose. Each project has been awarded a stage 1 feasibility grant of £35.5k.

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G0 Heating – Grafham, Great Staughton and Perry

The G0 or Go Zero project represents a net-zero carbon heating goal for the villages of Grafham, Great Staughton and Perry. The parish councils for the three villages are working together to find sustainable heating alternatives for all households. The project aims to protect the three communities, which are currently dependent on oil, from future uncertainties related to the use of fossil-fuels, and to support a sustainable future for the villages. Grant funding from the Rural Community Energy Fund has enabled the appointment of experts in engineering and community engagement, to produce a feasibility study for the project. The study will focus on the technology, business case and community benefit of the scheme, to test whether a heat network is suitable for the villages. Project award: Stage 1 feasibility grant £38.6k.

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Ouse Valley Solar Farm

OVESCO is a community energy company with the aim to decarbonise Lewes and the surrounding district on behalf of the local community. It has been investigating the feasibility of building a 10-15MW solar farm near Lewes in East Sussex. With support from the Rural Community Energy Fund, a study has been successfully completed, to establish the community benefit and technical and financial feasibility of the project. The feasibility work has also provided a framework business plan and identified what tasks and timings are required to deliver the project. Community ownership and involvement are at the core of the project. The solar farm is intended be a local community-owned asset to substantially reduce carbon emissions and provide significant community benefit. Project award: Stage 1 feasibility grant £40k.

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Decarbonising Outwood village

A local meeting established the existence of a significant interest to address climate change within the village community of Outwood. A committee, which is working in collaboration with the parish council, was formed to take this endeavour forward. It was decided to explore the possibility of developing renewable energy systems in the parish, to reduce carbon and benefit residents. A study is being undertaken to explore whether the village can transition from its reliance on oil and LPG for heating and hot water. A consortium of three specialist consultancies is examining the village geography and geology, the availability of land and site selection, the attitudes of residents, and the technical, financial, business and community benefits of various renewable energy options. The project is for and by the community, so the involvement of residents is considered to be key. The findings of the feasibility study will be shared with the whole village. Project award: Stage 1 feasibility grant £36k.

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Merston Solar Farm Expansion

Meadow Blue Community Energy own a 5MW solar farm in Merston, West Sussex, which has been running successfully for over three years. The organisation is seeking to maximise the potential of the farm through an extension to its current photovoltaic installation by an additional 1.5-2MW.  The objectives are to increase the solar farm’s output of clean energy, to utilise the energy generated more effectively, create more local awareness of solar technology and to increase revenue and community benefit. The first step has been to examine the technical and commercial feasibility of the extension, including the exploration of a battery installation, to demonstrate that the project is viable and can be invested in with confidence. The feasibility study, which has been supported by a grant from the Fund, and successfully carried out, has verified that the project is suitable for further development. Project award: Stage 1 feasibility grant £38.6k.

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