Village at centre of fracking protests keeps its dream of a solar future alive

Villagers at the centre of Britain's biggest fracking storm have come up with a way of keeping their dream of a solar future alive.

Solar panels being erected in Balcombe SUS-161103-131735001
Solar panels being erected in Balcombe SUS-161103-131735001

Residents in Balcombe formed a community group in the wake of massive anti-fracking protests in the village with the idea of building their own solar farm to power the whole village.

But the plans of the group - who dubbed themselves Repower Balcombe - were scuppered by a change in Government subsidies.

However, now they have launched a new share offer to support the installation of solar power on two local schools, having already installed them at two others.

The group hope to install around 400 solar panels at Crawley Down Village C of E School, and Imberhorne School, East Grinstead.

But they have to act quickly - they need to raise £110,000 in just three weeks so they can install the solar panels during upcoming school holidays.

Repower Balcombe spokesman Joe Nixon said: “We’re not letting the government cuts stop our plans.”

He said that Crawley Down and Imberhorne schools were right at the centre of their communities, “the perfect place for a project like ours to work.”

Repower Balcombe has previously funded the installation of solar panels at Balcombe Primary School and at Turners Hill Primary School.

Repower estimates the schools will use 75-80 per cent of the electricity generated, with the rest fed back into the national grid.

Jesse Scharf, project manager at climate change charity, 10:10 said:“Repower Balcombe wanted to power the whole village with locally-owned clean energy, and inspire communities around the world to follow suit.

“Sadly the government brought that dream to an end with a series of policy changes that are devastating to the community energy sector and the wider renewable energy sector in the UK.

“Still, it’s brilliant to see them power ahead with more schools installs. Community energy projects like Repower are all about engaging local people with renewable energy technologies, as well as cutting carbon and boosting local economies - I can’t think of a better place to start that sort of work than a school rooftop.”

Repower Balcombe announced last November that they were shelving plans for a community- owned solar farm but the farm is still being developed commercially.