1. Background to the Report
- Brampton (Grid Ref NY 528610) sits at the heart of the rural area to the North East of Carlisle District in North Cumbria. It is a Market Town and has had a Market Charter since 1252. It has a significant range of community facilities – Primary and Secondary Schools, Post Office, Doctor’s Surgery, Dentists, Cottage Hospital, Library, a range of small independent Shops, weekly Markets and monthly Farmers Markets, Restaurants and Cafés, Pubs, Hotels, Fire Station, Churches, Community Centre, Railway Station and local amenity areas.
- Brampton is described as the Market Town which provides the focal point for the surrounding rural communities and villages. The area is known as “Brampton and Beyond”. It is 9 miles east of Carlisle and 2 miles south of Hadrian’s Wall.
- BABE was set up as an Industrial and Provident Society trading for the benefit of the community. The Directors have a range of expertise in engineering; renewable energy; local government; micro-biology; business management; health and safety and community energy engagement. They are active within a range of local organisations – Sustainable Brampton; Brampton and Beyond Community Trust; The Farmers Market; etc.
- BABE’s vision is to generate renewable energy at scale for the benefit of the community. They have commissioned two previous feasibility studies looking at the potential for Anaerobic Digestion (AD) at Townfoot Industrial Estate in Brampton. One was a Desktop Study and the other was a Feedstock Study.
- An Open Meeting was held in February 2014 to report on the findings of the Feedstock Study. Over 200 people attended that meeting many of whom came because they objected to the proposed location of the AD plant which had been presented at the public meeting as the recommended option for a community led energy project, subject to their approval. They also did not fully understand why BABE had discarded other renewable energy technologies.
- BABE’s success in securing RCEF Stage 1 funding has enabled them to respond to that feedback and review what renewable energy resources are available in the area; what the constraints are; what the community thinks; and identify what is feasible for community energy generation at scale.
- The Initial Feasibility Study gives an assessment of viability, facts and figures to aid decision-making; and where appropriate alternative approaches to putting BABE’s vision into practice.
2. Short Summary of Findings
a. Potential Renewable Energy Installations
- Following detailed analysis using the DECC Renewable Energy and Low Carbon Energy Capacity Methodology (Methodology for the English Regions 2010) the potentially deliverable options were identified as being:
- 50kW Archimedean Screw at Greenholme;
- 100kW Solar PV at Townfoot Industrial Estate;
- 2mW Anaerobic Digestion Plant at Irthington;
- Sustainable Biomass Supply Chain; and
- Gas CHP powered heat network in Brampton.
- Brampton and Beyond Energy Ltd have a vision to be a net exporter of electricity in the next 20 years and therefore want to develop community renewable energy at scale.
- It was therefore agreed at this stage to look at Solar PV and Anaerobic Digestion in more detail.
b. Solar PV
- Brampton has an Industrial Estate at Townfoot Park. This park has a total letting of 53,464ft2. It is set out in 6 blocks with 5 of the blocks being within 15 degrees of due South. It has an owner/occupier who has South facing unshaded 0.5acre site that he is “in principle” willing to let to BABE for a community energy installation.
- There is the potential for a 100kW installation ground mounted on the site identified for rent.
- This is an ideal location for Solar PV as there is considerable day-time usage; little shading; land to rent on a brownfield site; grid connection capacity and excellent hard-core access.
- A survey on the Industrial Estate identified 100% interest in purchasing electricity from a community energy installation especially if it helped reduce costs and provided long-term security of supply. This will also help secure jobs on the Industrial Estate which has been identified by the Parish Council as a critical factor for Brampton.
- The installation would also be financially viable and produce a community benefit of an estimated £16-17,000 per annum.
- BABE plans to pursue this low-risk development as a priority. Community generation and community
c. Anaerobic Digestion
- Brampton has been a market town at the heart of a rural community since 1252. BABE has recognised for some time the potential for the local farms to supply a community energy scheme. They commissioned a Feedstock Study which reported in February 2014.
- The study was based on siting the Anaerobic Digester at the Industrial Estate in Brampton.
- This study took a different approach and started with the possible range of feedstocks in the wider Brampton area and using central place theory concluded that an Anaerobic Digester would be better located near Irthington.
- A site on a working dairy farm was identified and the landowner has agreed “in principle” to rent the site for a community energy installation. The site is surrounded on three sides by agricultural land and is opposite Carlisle Airport.
- Building on the Feedstock Study this study concluded that the community can be confident about feedstock supply for a 500kW capacity Anaerobic Digester.
- An Anaerobic Digester will contribute to the long-term future of local farms who are key employers and who face some challenging times in responding to significant changes in subsidy levels alongside significant downward market pressures.
- BABE is confident it could generate a community benefit of £60,000 per annum. However they recognise that it is high risk development and will try to mitigate that risk by securing Rural Community Energy Fund Stage 2 support.
d. Community Support
i. Following three drop-in sessions, a questionnaire to 1,965 households, stakeholder consultation and significant local press and media coverage the study has evidenced the following:
- 93% of the community support renewable energy generation;
- 93% were familiar with Solar and 37% with AD;
- 67% would be happy to have Solar close to their homes; and
- 56% would be happy to have Anaerobic Digester Plant in wider Brampton area.
e. Planning and Permitting
i. Research was undertaken into identifying the statutory constraints, traffic implications, environmental implications and identifying the community’s views – before preferred technologies and sites were identified.
ii. Informal pre-planning advice was sought from both Carlisle City Council (Planning Authority for Solar PV) and Cumbria County Council (Planning Authority for AD).
iii. The Environment Agency has also been consulted about Permitting. They have advised that the AD at the identified site would meet the requirements for a Standard Permit.
iv. Solar PV would be a permitted development.
v. Cumbria County Council based on the information currently available identified no key showstoppers but formal pre-application advice will be sought before submission of a RCEF Stage 2 application.
vi. The study has concluded that the AD is likely to secure a Standard Permit and Planning Consent.
Community Consultation Report
Results and key findings
Questionnaires were hand delivered by volunteers to 1,965 of the 2,180 homes in Brampton town. A total of 246 responses were received on the doorstep, representing a 13% response rate. A further 16 responses were received as a result of wider promotional activities.
The responses indicated the following:
- The technology most respondents were familiar with was solar (93% of respondents) followed by wind (84%), hydro (61%), biomass (44%), anaerobic digestion (37%) and geothermal (36%).
- There is overwhelming support for local renewable energy generation in principle, with 93% of respondents saying they support the idea, compared with 6% who don’t.
- ‘Cheaper energy’ and ‘reduction in carbon emissions’ are the benefits that respondents considered most important, with ‘greater local control of energy supply’ and ‘greater community cooperation’ considered least important. ‘Reducing fuel poverty’ fell in the middle. The overwhelming majority of respondents considered all these benefits to be either ‘very important’ or ‘fairly important’.
- Respondent’s principle concerns about each technology were:
- Solar: a perceived visual impact (though cited by only 20 respondents).
- Hydropower: potential harm to wildlife and the environment (9 respondents)
- Wind turbines: visual impact (52 respondents – 20%) and noise (39 respondents – 15%)
- AD: perceived smell from the plant (65 respondents – 25%).
- Geothermal: scepticism over its cost-effectiveness (12 respondents) and a lack of knowledge about the technology (9 respondents)
- Biomass: smell and fuel source (23 respondents each – 9%)
- Solar is the technology that most respondents would be happy to have close to their home (67% of respondents). A further 18% would be happy to have it in the wider Brampton area (85% in total). AD was the technology that fewest of the respondents were happy to have close to their home (11%), but a further 45% said they would be happy to have it in the wider Brampton area (56% in total). 67%, 63%, 58% and 56% of respondents respectively would be happy to have hydro, wind, geothermal and biomass either close to their homes or in the wider Brampton area.
The responses indicated the following:
- When asked which of the list of benefits they would like to see from any income generated by the scheme, ‘rural community transport support’ and ‘community Centre improvements and equipment’ were the most popular, followed by ‘health and wellbeing activities’, ‘capital and revenue expenditure’ (e.g. swimming pool) and ‘support to welfare cases’. ‘Professional training courses’, ‘personal development courses’ and ‘support to local arts and crafts projects’ were least popular.
- Respondents’ suggestions for how community benefits could be selected included a public vote (most popular), or by committee or following public consultation.
- When asked what level of personal involvement respondents would consider, the most common response was that they would attend public meetings/events to find out more (42% of respondents), followed closely by a wish to be kept informed with email updates (39%). 26% of respondents did not want any personal involvement, but would be broadly content for BABE to make decisions on their behalf. 16% might consider renting their roof space for a community solar energy scheme, while 8% already have renewables installed, and would be happy to share data on its performance. In terms of active involvement, 8% said they would be happy to deliver house-to-house leaflets, 6% would be prepared to help in the organisation of events and activities, 3% could offer expertise, and 3% could help with other aspects of the publicity campaign.
40% of respondents indicated that they would be willing, in principle to consider investing in a community renewable energy scheme. Of these, the most popular amount they might consider investing was £201-£500 (26 respondents), followed by £500-£1,000 (22 respondents). 8 respondents said they might be willing to invest more than £1,000, while a total of 42 might consider £200 or less.
Analysis of the responses has demonstrated overwhelming support, in principle, for generating renewable energy locally. A high proportion of respondents have expressed an interest in some level of personal involvement, with 40% saying they would consider investing in a future scheme. Together, these findings demonstrate a good level of engagement, and broad support, thereby providing a clear mandate for BABE to continue investigating the possibility of developing a renewable energy scheme locally. Solar has emerged as the technology that most respondents would be happy to have either close to their home or in the wider area, and it is considered unlikely to meet significant public opposition should BABE choose to pursue this option. If a suitable source were found for hydropower, this is also considered unlikely to meet significant resistance, while wind power might meet slightly more opposition. The principle reason for not being happy with geothermal was a lack of knowledge of the technology rather than active opposition. Biomass and AD were the least popular technologies, though nevertheless, over half of respondents were happy to have these plants in the wider area, and this would likely increase if the principle concerns were addressed (e.g. if odours were contained, traffic impacts minimised and feed stocks sustainably sourced).