Local development organisation PLANED carried out a consultation asking how local people see their neighbourhood in the next decade. The consultation covered all aspects of community life, and it was a great way to inspire people, and a local group, Cymdeithas Cwm Arian, was created. Among other things, the need for community projects was identified, and so CARE was founded.
We constituted CARE as a community co-operative in 2011, with support from the Welsh Government's Ynni'r Fro programme.
All of our assets are subject to an “asset lock” which ensures that they are for the benefit of the community. We also have a clear community focus in our constitution:
-establish a low carbon economy within Cwm Arian and its surrounding area
-invest benefits within the locality
-prevent or relieve poverty
-subject our processes to evaluation so that our developments can be replicated elsewhere
Operating in an area characterised by small settlements and a dispersed population, can make energy connection challenging. After a long wait of 13 years, planning permission was granted for our community owned 700kW wind turbine at Trefawr Farm to generate clean energy.
Income generated by the wind energy provides a community fund, the eventual aim for which is to distribute it to where it is most needed in our local areas. We are also hoping to open a share offer in the near future.
Our volunteers have put a lot of time and work into making this happen, and we received grants from the Welsh Government’s Ynni’r Fro and Ynni Lleol schemes, the Welsh Energy Service, and the Waterloo Foundation.
In addition to our flagship wind turbine, we have delivered a range of other projects. We became a regional partner of Smart Energy GB, and as part of this we deliver the Pembrokeshire Smarter Energy Support Service (P-SESS), providing advice and support on smart meters and reducing the cost of energy at home.
Another successful initiative is our Growing Better Connections project. We offer practical solutions for people and nature to flourish. It includes opportunities to get involved with training and learn new skills, while taking part in action such as:
-Planting hedges, woodlands and orchards,
-Making sure habitats are bigger, better and more joined up,
-Benefiting nature, business and community.
As part of the Growing Better Connections project, which runs from 2020-23, we have been running events and celebrations for everyone to share in making Cwm Arian a more sustainable community.
CARE arose from genuine community interest.
We came together as a sort of accident, resulting from community consultation, but it showed that lots of people were ready and willing to get involved in community energy – but didn't have any way to express that, or to find others who felt the same.
Community energy projects can be a very lengthy process.
It took 13 years to get planning permission for our wind turbine, but the trick is to make sure everyone is aware of this and can commit to be a part of the project for the duration. More people will join further along in the process, e.g. if share offers are available, so as long as you have a strong initial team you'll be fine.
Take as much of the support as you are offered!
We had a great experience with the Welsh Government Energy Service, who supported us with expert advice and grants throughout the process of developing the project – but they gave the support in such a way that as volunteers we could really develop our skills and knowledge and become independent. As a result, we now have a small team of really experienced people who are employable in the energy sector.
Stages of the project completed