Energy Local Talk Tuesday 15th March, 6-7pm

We’re delighted to be hosting Mary Gillie, Founder and Director of Energy Local, for a talk at the REconomy Centre in Totnes on Tuesday 15th March, between 6-7pm. Energy Local is a Community Interest Company transforming the electricity market for communities and small-scale renewable generators. Their mission is to help communities get more value from small-scale renewable generation by using the electricity locally. Thanks to a grant of £25,000 from Team Devon’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery and Business Prospectus Funding, TRESOC will be developing up to five new community-owned rooftop solar PV installations in Totnes. These will combine to establish an Energy Local Club in Totnes (Energy Local Totnes) to buy the electricity generated, effectively establishing Totnes’s own renewable energy marketplace. Within an Energy Local Club, householders and small businesses pay a lower price for electricity if they use renewable energy from local generators when it is generated; the customer pays less, and the generator receives more. Right now, people living near renewables purchase the electricity back for three or four times the price the generator is paid for it.

There are many community and environmental benefits to an ELC. The community benefits from reducing fuel poverty by selling energy affordably and allowing locally owned generators more control over pricing, all keeping the profits in the local economy. The environment benefits by customers reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.

TRESOC are looking for five large south-facing roofs – they could be a school, a row of terraces or an industrial building – and for householders and businesses to join the Club and use the green, local, cheaper energy. They are also looking for someone to train as an energy advisor and to run the club. This will be a paid, part time role with flexible hours so would suit a parent with young children. In addition, volunteers will be needed to support setting up the Club and to be members of the Energy Local Totnes board.

TRESOC will own and operate the solar PV on each of the 5 sites (approximately 250kW, enough to power to boil 250 kettles at peak output) and will raise the capital to install the panels through a community share-offer, which means all profits from the scheme will return to the local economy. The occupiers of each site will have a Power Purchase Agreement with TRESOC for the energy used on site and any excess electricity will be sold into the Energy Local Club within the local substation area. The scheme will be supported by Energy Local CIC, who have established several Clubs in England and Wales. Totnes Energy Local Club will be the first to allow local small businesses to take part. Once the Club is established new generators can join, balanced by new customers, and the club can continue to grow. To take part generators and members of the club need to sign up to the same energy tariff, an Energy Local Tariff, that is currently being provided by Octopus Energy.

Anyone who would like to be involved in the Club, as an energy advisor, a member, a board member, or who knows of a large south facing roof, please email or call TRESOC on 01803 867431. And come to the talk! Places are limited to please book, again by emailing



TRESOC Wins RCEF Grant for Clay Park Feasibility Study #HarnessOurPower

As it is Community Energy Fortnight, we are delighted to announce that residents at Transition Homes’ housing development at Clay Park in Dartington could benefit from their own supply of affordable green energy, thanks to funding awarded by the South West Energy Hub in partnership with the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.

Working with Transition Homes Community Land Trust (THCLT), TRESOC has been awarded a Rural Community Energy Fund grant of almost £30,000.  The funding will be used to carry out a feasibility study into the development of a solar photovoltaic (PV) array plus on-site battery storage and electric vehicle charging points at the 31-home Clay Park development.

If the study proves successful, a micro-grid will be set up to supply the site, taking renewable solar energy direct to residents at a below-market rate.  It is estimated that the PV array could generate 180,000 kWh of energy, worth nearly £30,000 a year*, on which residents will save approximately 10%.  As well as improving local energy resilience, this would save an estimated 45 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere annually.

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership said: “Our vision is to create a dynamic, highly prosperous region with high living standards and an outstanding quality of life, and clean energy is an important theme running through our activity, so I’m pleased that the South West Energy Hub has awarded this feasibility grant.

“The scheme could not only help to improve quality of life for local people on lower incomes, but also make an important contribution to tackling the climate emergency. We look forward to hearing the results of the study.”

Sally Murrall-Smith, TRESOC’s Operations Manager said, “The grant, worth £29,156, will be used to evaluate the economic viability of the scheme, design the system, determine the best technology mix, and cover organisational and legal costs, community engagement and project management.”

“We’re delighted that TRESOC has been successful with this grant bid, and we are looking forward to working with them,” added THCLT Project Coordinator Nicola Lang. “Delivering the PV array and micro-grid system will help us to reduce the environmental impact of the homes at Clay Park while making it more affordable for residents and supporting the local economy.”

THCLT has planning permission for 31 highly energy-efficient eco-homes at the progressive Clay Park development in Dartington, offering a choice of affordable rent or shared ownership for local people in housing need. It has invited TRESOC to become the energy supplier, and to own and operate the system.

TRESOC intends to raise the capital to install the solar PV panels, microgrid, and operating system, estimated to cost £180,000, through a community share-offer. Clay Park residents will be able to purchase shares in the scheme if they so wish. Interest from the income to TRESOC will be distributed to local shareholders, strengthening the local economy, while boosting employment via local procurement rules. TRESOC will also develop an ongoing renewable energy education programme in partnership with local schools and Clay Park residents.

The feasibility grant was provided by the Rural Community Energy Fund, a government scheme administered by the South West Energy Hub in partnership with Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership. Jon Rattenbury, Programme Manager for the South West Energy Hub said: “This innovative scheme is a great example of how developing local green energy can bring a wide range of economic and community benefits at the same time as helping tackle the climate emergency. We are really pleased to be able to award this grant funding to TRESOC and hope that other local communities will be inspired to follow their example.”

Part of the funding has been allocated to a community engagement programme to run alongside the study. This will comprise:

  • Four Walk & Talk (site visits) during the first week in September, exploring the site and giving an opportunity to ask questions in an informal manner. These will be open to general public and be timetabled at weekends and during weekdays to make it easier for people to attend. Children welcome and there will be child-friendly activities on site so parents can give their attention to the tour
  • Focus groups in mid-September. For people interested in living at Clay Park
  • An evening talk at the end of September outlining the results of the study so far. This will be open to the general public

If you are interested in attending any of the events, please register your interest by emailing

Addendum: Sally, our Operations Manager, was interviewed about the Clay Park grant on BBC Radio Devon on 24.06.20. You can listen to the broadcast here.

The Energy Potential of Local Food Waste

Caspar Sayany, MEng Renewable Energy student at The University of Exeter and Tresoc intern, recently presented his research findings on the energy potential of local food waste in Totnes.

Caspar interviewed 49 businesses in Totnes and found they produce 164 tonnes of food waste per year, or 3,161kg/week.  The UK’s millions of tonnes of unavoidable food waste, like peelings and apple cores, has costs – energy, money, space, time, smell and environmental.  Our AD project at Dartington at Old Parsonage Farm will be a great way to recycle nutients and to produce energy.

Separating waste will be the challenge…. maybe we can learn from Japan‘s gomi (rubbish) guides: “Trash-related issues could easily become a cause of trouble with your neighbors. To establish a comfortable life for both you and others in the community, it is important to follow local rules for trash collection.”

Take a look at Caspar’s presentation, download it here.

Polish producer Adam Dzienis, filming Caspar, is creating a film to highlight the vital and thriving contribution of co-operative energy across Europe.

Beyond Megawatts – the social significance of community energy

My generation and all of those following have little or no experience of blackouts. When we flick on a switch we expect the electricity to flow, with a lack of knowledge of where and how it is produced. As we become increasingly dependant on media and gadgets this reliance has hit record levels. If you were to ask a teenager today, to spend a few hours without electricity, the majority would be utterly incapable.

Modern life has distanced us from the production and impacts of what we rely on and in doing so, reduced how much we value it. This is particularly true for food, clothing, and electronics – but I want to focus on electricity.

One way to bridge this gap is through local generation. The idea being, if I can see electricity being generated, I am going to value it more. Add in the opportunity for people to not only view electricity being generated, but to directly benefit from it, and you get a sense of why community-scale renewable energy is such a powerful idea. From being dis-empowered uninterested consumers, we become active aware generators of electricity.

My enthusiasm for community energy first took hold when I read this and other scientific papers, but was reignited by a blog a read a few months ago. In short, community energy offers:

  1. A huge opportunity for our local economy to reduce the leakage – money flowing out. Local people benefiting from local resources.
  2. Improves our awareness of where our electricity comes from. This helps us to value it more and conserve.
  3. The ability for communities to take responsibility for some of their energy use by generating rather than consuming and contribute to a stronger more resilient society.

The current centralised national grid relies on a few large power stations, that are a large distance away, to keep the lights on. As our antique infrastructure struggles on, many power stations are being turned off – most recently Didcot coal power station in Oxfordshire. This looming gap of generation has to be filled somehow. Currently the easiest and cheapest option is onshore wind turbines. We want to retain the benefits locally, so Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC) was formed, with Totnes Community wind farm as its flagship project. There are other generation options available and we are actively investigating them.

We want to help build a renewable future at the community scale, which we can be proud of for years to come. There are strong economic and social benefits for us to cherish when we succeed.

Cultivating energy farmers

A 50kW turbine at a height of 30m has eased into the landscape in Rattery. Having sighted the structure from afar I decided to investigate via bicycle, which allowed me to fully appreciate the high elevation of the site. Standing underneath the blades spinning at full capacity there was definitely some sound, but the feeling that most gripped me was of wonder.
The rejected Luscombe Cross turbines are three times the size, but provide 46 times the generation capacity. Yet this turbine has caused no controversy. If we are at all concerned about the growing generation gap, then surely the wrong decision was made.
Anyhow, the opportunity renewable energy offers to farmers is discussed in a recent article – “Is 2013 the year of the energy farmer?”. Rising costs, horrific harvests and unsympathetic banks, made 2012 a year of hardship for many farmers. The need to protect against future energy price rises and a new financial income stream, leaves the opportunity too good to refuse for many. Indeed there is a growing number of solar parks going through planning locally of some serious size – 13 hectares (5MW) and 15 hectares (8MW) within a few miles of each other near South Brent. A hectare is the area of Trafalgar Square in London or alternatively an international rugby pitch – in other words, big. Undoubtedly, these renewable energy installations will have an impact on our countryside, but to deny farmers a rare opportunity in gloomy economic times does seem a little unfair. I maintain my reservations that I stated in a previous post: solar is highly variable (2012 was a bad year for solar); provides little or no energy in winter and at night, when we use most; and is still expensive and carbon intensive compared with other forms. However it will surely form part of a diverse set of renewable energy technologies that we need urgently. Furthermore, the two large solar parks in question, offer no opportunity for local ownership, and therefore a much lower proportion of the financial benefits. This is in direct contrast to the model that Totnes Renewable SOCiety (TRESOC) and the Community energy coalition is striving to publicise and celebrate – local people finding resources and sharing the benefits with local investors.
There is space for all scales of renewable energy to play their part in securing a renewable future locally. Farmers can help cultivate a renewable future for all.
Olly Frankland