Crowd-funded wind turbines now powering homes
As the old saying goes, an Englishman's home is his castle. But what about if you wanted to own a wind turbine and use that to power your metaphorical castle? Well, prompted by the idea that a whole turbine might be a bit big for the average home, a few years ago a first of a kind initiative was born that meant you could own part of a wind turbine and use the proportion of it that you do own to cut the cost of your electricity bill by consuming your own green electricity. The idea was quite daring, not least because the company had to persuade people to invest in a turbine that hadn't even been bought or built yet so they could raise the funds to construct it. The CEO of Ripple Energy, the organisation behind the idea, is Sarah Merrick, who spoke to Julia Ravey...
Sarah - There are 907 people that have owned part of that project. We also got a grant from the Welsh government. So that project has been built and it's up and running, and people have got their first savings off their electricity bill as well. It's just a monthly saving that gets applied depending on how windy is. So we had a fantastic April and people saved on average about £24 off their electricity bill. We've had a full cycle of launch project, fund it, build it, and then get savings. We've also launched and funded a second, much bigger project. The first project was one turbine, the next project is Kirk Hill, that's in Scotland. That's eight turbines and that's funded. There's 5,600 people that own part of that project, and it's now going to start construction and it will be generating late next year.
Julia - Can you just give us a reminder of how these schemes work? So if I wanted to get involved and get some of my energy from these wind turbines, how would I go about doing that?
Sarah - Go onto our website, put in how much electricity you use. You then say, "do you want all of that covered by your wind farm or half of it Or 10%?" Once you've decided you then buy the shares in the wind farm, and then we take care of everything else; we manage the operations, we manage the build. And then when the wind farm's operating, your electricity supplier then buys your bit of the wind farm's electricity and supplies it to your home via the grid, and then you get savings off your bill automatically. So it's really, really easy - you can sign up in a few minutes - really flexible, so it doesn't matter if you move home or if you live in a flat or if you rent, anyone can now buy a bit of a wind farm.
Julia - And is that an upfront cost you pay to invest in the wind farm?
Sarah - You pay upfront and it's literally that money is what the wind farm gets built with.
Julia - One of your projects is up in Scotland, one is down in Wales. So do you have to live in the local area to get involved? Does the wind turbine have to be within a certain radius of your home?
Sarah - Because we use the national grid to get the electricity around the country, it doesn't matter where you live. You can't live in Northern Ireland because there's a different grid in Northern Ireland, but yes, you can live anywhere. The whole point of Ripple is to enable everyone, no matter whether you live in the middle of the countryside or in the city centre, everyone can own their own source of clean power now.
Julia - Have you got any projects coming up?
Sarah - We're looking at our third project at the moment. So there's a couple of different options that we're looking at. It might be a solar park, it might be another wind farm, but we want to launch another one hopefully before the end of the year.
Julia - From my perspective, I live in a flat and it sounds like a really great way for people who don't necessarily live, you know, out in the countryside where you could put your own turbine up or have your own solar panels to get that green energy, whilst also making a saving. Do you think this is the future of getting green energy to more people?
Sarah - Absolutely. Part of the beauty of renewable energy is that it can be owned by thousands of people and you can't own a bit of a coal station or a gas station or a nuclear station, but you absolutely can own a little bit of a wind farm or a little bit of a solar park. The benefit as well, like we've seen at the moment electricity prices have gone through the roof, but actually the cost of operating the wind farm has stayed really stable. So it means the savings that you get on your bill are a lot higher when the electricity price is high. So it's a way of enabling millions of people across the country to be able to own their own source of clean power, but get the low cost and stable priced green electricity that that wind farm or solar park generates, and that can help protect them from the price spikes that we've seen at the moment.