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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