THE TRESOC STORY
Totnes Renewable Energy Society, Tresoc, was formed in November 2007 by a group of local residents concerned about climate change. Our first share offers in 2010 and 2011 were primarily to finance the 4.6MW Totnes Community Wind Farm, and attracted over 500 members, mainly from the local Totnes community. During the engagement with the wind farm, TRESOC installed two rooftop solar projects. In 2012, we installed 27 kW at the NHS’s Leatside GP Surgery, and, in 2013, 7 kW at Follaton Community Centre. Both Leatside Surgery and Follaton Community Centre receive all the solar energy they can use on site for free.
In 2014 Tresoc launched its 3rd Share Offer to develop a portfolio of solar roofs and hydro projects. A total of £263,100 was raised from 109 small and large investors. Further to this, a low interest loan of £168,000 was arranged with the Charity Bank in March, 2015. This combined investment enabled the installation of the award-winning Shine Project with South Devon Rural Housing Association, the purchase of Hatchlands Farm Solar Array and an investment in the Dart Renewables 300kW hydro plant at Totnes Weir. More recently, Tresoc installed a 30kW solar array on Lescaze House, enabled by access to SeedBed funding through the Dartington Hall Trust.
With an investment portfolio now generating sufficient income, Tresoc was able to make its first 2% interest payment to members in March, 2017. The Society is actively pursuing further opportunities for growth. Currently, we are engaged in developing a 100kW hydro power plant at Staverton, exploring an on-farm AD project at Dartington and identifying new solar projects for a further share offer and local investment opportunity.
The Tresoc team includes motivated professionals with expertise in renewable energy, engineering, communications, business management, finance and law. The Society has gained a great deal of hard won experience in community-owned renewable energy development over the years and has established productive working relationships with technology partners, local businesses and stakeholders. We are very well placed to deploy community-owned renewable energy at scale for the benefit of the local community, economy and environment.
WE’RE INVOLVED IN FOUR MAIN AREAS OF ENERGY PRODUCTION
TRESOC’s first solar investment was a 27 kWp solar array at Leatside Surgery, supplying 24,000 kWh/yr of free electricity to a busy local health centre with help from the Feed in Tariff. TRESOC now owns and operates a solar portfolio including 154 kWp on 42 properties belonging to South Devon Rural Housing Association, a 50 kWp array at a local dairy farm, and a 30 kWp at Lescaze House, Dartington. With the phasing out of the Feed In Tariff, TRESOC continues to cut energy costs for new local customers with sales of clean, green electricity at an agreed percentage below market price.
Wind remains the most cost-effective way to generate electricity renewably. TRESOC has deep experience in this area, partnering with wind developer Infinergy to position two turbines on the best site for wind in the South Hams. These two, community-owned turbines would have met the energy demand of 2,500 homes. Unfortunately, our application was turned down in August 2012.
The River Dart runs right through our town, bubbling up on Dartmoor and pouring out at Dartmouth. We are a coastal market town, with a history of water-based trade and mills, so it makes sense that we would explore this way to generate energy.
Biomass & Energy from Waste
This is the most complicated area that we pursue because the category breaks down into many sub-categories. Energy can be recovered from waste by various (very different) technologies. It is important that recyclable material is removed first, and that energy is recovered from what remains, i.e. from the residual waste.
We are currently working on a pyrolysis research project that uses biomass, in this case, wood waste, to generate electricity. The challenge is what to do with the heat it also generates?
ADVOCATING FOR COMMUNITY ENERGY
TRESOC advocates for community renewable energy with Government wherever possible, promoting the benefits of the sector in developing a sustainable local economy and a healthy environment.
Tresoc in Brussels
Ian Bright joined other community energy groups, with Regen SW on a study tour to Brussels in December 2016, meeting with Molly Scott-Cato, MP. This included a presentation from the Dirk Vansintjan, President of REScoop.eu , the European federation of groups and cooperatives of citizens for renewable energy.
Tresoc at Westminster
Member outreach, awareness raising and education are fundamental to what we do, but we have also been invited up to Westminster several times over the past year and have participated in the following events:
- Launch of the Co-operatives UK Report on Community Energy and the Energy Bill, November 2012
- Dept. of Energy and Climate Change Workshop on Access to Market for Independent Generators, April 2013
- The Guardian Roundtable Debate on Community Energy, September 2013. Download the resulting article, Power to the People
- Ofgem Workshop on Community Energy, September 2013
- Launch of the ResPublica Report on the “Community Renewables Economy”, September 2013
- Ian Bright joined with Jodie Giles of RegenSW and Francis MacNaughton of South Brent Sustainable Energy Society to discuss the benefits of community energy with Andrea Leadsom MP, Minister of State DECC, at a meeting arranged by Totnes MP, Dr Sarah Wollaston. Wednesday 24 February 2016
It’s encouraging to find government now listening to us as it seeks to promote growth in the community renewables economy. Whether government realises that, for us, it’s not all about the money remains to be seen.
The ResPublica Report
The ResPublica Report gives a good overview of the community renewables sector and points to the potential for growth. The Report says that community renewables could grow from current levels of less than 1% of on shore renewables capacity now, to 10% by 2027 “if certain barriers are dissolved and the appropriate policy framework put in place.”
The report recognises TRESOC activities in the section on Central Barriers to Growth of Community Energy, as follows:
“A recent example in support of the effect of local authority attitudes and levels of awareness concerns the Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC) wind farm. The Totnes Community Wind Farm, a project that Jonathan Porritt of Forum for the Future described as “one of the most well-designed and well-supported we’ve ever seen,” was denied planning permission early in 2013. The opinion of TRESOC was that ‘Local planning authorities don’t yet have the tools to balance parochial concerns against national strategic objectives for deployment of renewable energy.’ This suggests that greater information and training for decision makers – both planners and councillors – would be beneficial.”
OUR ROLE AS ADVISERS ON COMMUNITY ENERGY
Community Energy is the topic of the moment, but how many advisors are actually practitioners?
Along with other community energy groups, we have come up against major difficulties in trying to deliver renewable energy projects. Some we have predicted or navigated through, and we have practical advice to share. Some are major hurdles, for example, dealing with legislation tailored for the existing electricity generation and distribution network, owned and controlled by a small number of large corporations.
The TRESOC board is inter-disciplinary, and we have a wide range of skills:
- project development and management
- running an IPS
- investment evaluation
- contracts & legal documentation
- communications, marketing & outreach
Since our formation, we have advised and freely given or exchanged information with students, individuals, companies, organisations, associations and other community groups. At this point, our time is very precious and projects must take precedence, but we want to engage in the gift economy. If you can suggest a way that we can work together, please contact us.
MEET OUR TEAM
Ian graduated in Forestry from Aberdeen University and has enjoyed a varied career in forestry contracting, consultancy, management and lecturing. His experience with renewable energy development began with a wood heat project in 1994, moving on to become a founding member of Econergy Ltd., a leading UK wood-heat company, in 2001. He has served since 2003 as Renewable Energy Officer with Somerset County Council, winning a number of national awards, including Public Servant of the Year in 2007. A founder member of TRESOC since 2007, Ian started work full time for the Society in Oct 2010.
Steve worked in Local Government as a town planner for nearly 30 years in a variety of Local Authorities before setting up his own consultancy practice [Munday Planning Services] in 2011. In his last post, he was Head of Development Management at South Hams District Council, so he has good local experience of planning policies and processes. Steve believes in communities taking responsibility for the energy they consume and in doing their bit to promote sustainable and renewable sources of energy production. Joined Tresoc in Oct 2012.
Sally has a PhD in Renewable Energy Policy from University of Plymouth (UoP), a Postgraduate Certificate in Energy Policy (Distinction) from Exeter University and an MSc in Sustainable Environmental Management also from UoP. During her time as a student she worked as a consultant to the Centre for Sustainable Futures (UoP), started the student group ‘the Cli’mate’ Society’ and volunteered for Friends of the Earth (Birmingham), the Renewable Energy Association and REGEN SW. Since finishing her PhD in 2012 she and her husband have built their own ‘eco-house’ and started a family. Joined Oct 2015.
Policy and Development Director
Olly Frankland graduated with a 1st in Biology with Environmental Sciences (BSc Hons) in 2010. He joined TRESOC as an intern in 2011 and became an invaluable policy researcher, advocate in the local community and communications volunteer, setting up the TRESOC blog and supporting our events. Olly is now Business Advisor with RegenSW and was elected to the Tresoc Board in December 2014.
Catherine joined Tresoc in February 2016, providing cover for Sally on maternity leave and now remains on the team giving Admin Support, including for the website and social media. She has a MSc in Environment & Development and after a stint in Ghana working on a Community, Environment and Governance programme decided to move to Devon to be nearer family. Catherine manages the Gardening For Health project, overseen by the Totnes Trust, for whom she is also the Secretary.
Alastair has grown into the role of Engineering Director, having worked for over a year with Tresoc as project manager for the Shine Project. Previously, Alastair worked on various renewable energy projects in his native South Africa, including a way to substitute electricity, paraffin or deforesting wood (for cooking fuel) with clean burning biogas from organic waste. He recently gained an MSc in marine renewable energy at Plymouth University, has worked part time for RegenSW and is currently full-time with Argand Solutions. Joined Dec 2014.
Jane has over twenty years of communications experience for both for- and non-profit organisations worldwide. Jane joined Tresoc in 2011 and served as Communications Director until December 2016. Now, as a Tresoc Ambassador, she endeavours to promote its significant accomplishments and to create opportunities for people of all ages to learn about community energy in fun, relevant and engaging ways. She is the mastermind behind The First Ever Archimedes Screw Fest at the hydropower plant at Totnes Weir in October 2016, and is now designing a Key Stage 2 pilot project for a local school about local renewable energy – as part of a Tresoc collaboration with the Bioregional Learning Centre.
Trevor Branton joined Tresoc as Acting Finance Director in January 2015 and was elected as Finance Director at the AGM in March 2015. Trevor is Financial Adviser, based in Paignton for Clearwater Financial Planning and he helps clients with all financial matters including pensions, savings, investments, mortgages, protection, and overall wealth management.
Owen is a business solicitor with commercial experience in both private practice and industry. He has worked with Allen & Overy in London, Eversheds and as a legal director at Wilson Bowden in the construction and property development industry. He now lives in Dartmouth and acts as a Consultant to the South Devon Law Firm of Wollen Michelmore. He also serves as member of the Board of the Dart Harbour Authority and as Secretary to the Dartmouth Chamber of Trade. Joined Tresoc in Nov 2010.
WHAT OUR MEMBERS HAVE TO SAY
TRESOC represents exactly the kind of organisation on which the future of energy in the UK will come increasingly to depend.
Environmentalist / Forum For The Future
TRESOC have developed some great partnerships in the Totnes area to advance renewable energy and two to highlight are the SHINE project which enabled South Devon Rural Housing Association tenants to generate solar energy, and the partnership with Dart Renewables to develop the Totnes Weir hydro power station. I was pleased to take up the investment opportunity in Totnes Weir which TRESOC secured for members.
Project Officer / Citizen’s Rail
The Dartington Hall Trust
I am delighted we can support TRESOC and help them to develop some inspiring renewable energy projects. I hope we can do more together in the near future as TRESOC’s work aligns closely with our focus on playing our part in building more resilient communities.
Vaughan Lindsay / CEO 2004-15
TRESOC has successfully set up numerous community-owned green energy plants in the Totnes area, and deserves to be congratulated on its professionalism and determination. Thanks to TRESOC, local investors are now getting a financial return, coupled with the satisfaction of combatting climate change.
Churchwarden and community campaigner / Totnes
This is the future, what next, community funded housing, transport, food production? ……. TRESOC proves it can be done.
Chief Executive / South Devon Rural Housing