Farmers set up green energy co-op

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A group of nine beef and sheep farmers from across north Cornwall are set to celebrate the birth of a new co-operative company, Cornish Renewable Energy Ltd, which from 2010 will enable the farmers to sell ‘green’ electricity from 18 wind turbines (two per farm) to local businesses and other customers.

With Planning Permission secured, the group has now applied for a Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) grant to help them pay for the construction work. According to Chairman Royston Symons, who farms near Bude: “This is a very exciting moment, which marks the end of several years’ painstaking research and preparation. It will give us a means of using our natural assets to stay profitable where we are, and to increase the proportion of emission-free power generation in Cornwall.”

Symons is quick to acknowledge the value of the financial and action-planning support the group has received via the South West Rural Enterprise Gateway (REG). He said: “The visits we made to other farmers, the fairs and exhibitions we went to, the information we received via the REG Knowledge Network from the University of Plymouth, were all thanks to their support. All of this helped us decide what we should be doing. The more you see and hear, the more informed you become and the more likely it is that you’ll make the right decision in the end.”

Symons and his colleagues are now looking at the capital-intensive period of the project, but they have applied for a development grant from the Rural Development Programme for England to cover 40% of the building costs.

“We want to have the foundations in place this year,” he explained. “and have completed all the construction work in time to go live next year. We are already talking to local companies who are interested in buying electricity from us – it’s one way for them to substantiate their own green credentials. Moreover, many other farmers are taking our lead and are showing interest in undertaking similar initiatives themselves.”

Anyone wishing to find out more about REG should visit regsw.org.uk.

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