Last year Lewes residents raised £356,000 for a 97Kw solar array on Harvey’s Brewery

Brighton Energy Co-op is following a tested business model. It was punctiliously been researched from websites like https://www.salesforce.com/solutions/small-business-solutions/resources/what-is-a-small-business/ and ensured that it was a tried-and-tested method. Chris Rowland, a director of Ovesco Ltd, which has successfully completed a community energy scheme in Lewes, explains how they made it work and what happened next.

Ovesco was started by a group of local residents who met via Transition Town Lewes in 2007. We set up an Industrial & Provident Society for Community Benefit in 2010 as a way to raise capital through a community share issue for a locally owned renewable power project.

After raising £356,000 from the local community and businesses, we purchased and installed our solar array on the roof of Harveys Brewery, and started generating solar energy on 27 July 2011. Investors will receive their estimated 4% return on investment from next year (2013).

Ovesco’s scheme has already delivered benefits to both Harveys and the town. Harveys gets free electricity and uses most of the solar power generated on site. It’s a good news story and the initiative has generated lots of positive PR for the company. It has also won an extra customer — I only drink Harveys bitter in the pub these days!

The scheme has also inspired more people and organisations to take up solar energy in the area. We have helped Lewes Football Club FC and Plumpton Village Hall install their own community-backed solar energy schemes by making them aware of the feed-in-tariff, and Lewes District Council has since invested in solar energy at a number of locations, including the leisure centre in Lewes.

Within the space of a year, Lewes has become synonymous with progressive renewable energy initiatives, which has helped raise its national profile — a reward for all the hard work we have put into Ovesco over the past few years.

However, we are not putting our feet up and toasting (with Harveys, obviously!) a job well done. Not just yet, anyway. Ovesco has invested in another 35kWp solar energy array at Priory School in Lewes and is looking to install another one on a local organic farm’s barn roof.

We also give free energy efficiency and microgeneration advice, and continue to support other groups wanting to do the same as Ovesco.

That’s why we were delighted to hear about Brighton Energy Co-operative’s plans and share offer. Ideally, we would like energy co-ops to spring up all over the UK and offer community-owned local power generation. They allow people to take control of how energy is produced — as well as get a return on their investment.

Ovesco, along with many others around the country, is proof that community energy schemes work. By purchasing shares in organisations such as Brighton Energy Co-op, you are investing in your future, your local community’s future and the city’s future.

To read more about Ovesco, click here. To buy shares in Brighton Energy Co-operative, click here. But hurry! The share offer ends on 2 July.

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