How We Did It

This page explains the key stages that established BDCR, and the installation of the first turbine, the Vestas 75kW.

Please scroll down to read the story of how we did it!

Further details on both turbines can be found on the Generators page

Provision of a community “vehicle” to take responsibility for the project and drive it forward

An unincorporated association called The Dulas Valley Community Wind Partnership (DVCWP) was formed at a second public meeting.  People paid £10 each to fund the development costs – mainly the planning application fee and the cash costs involved in producing the application and the environmental statement. 

Local opinion varied from strongly supportive to cautious at the first public meeting, with some concern about possible visual and noise intrusion. 

Most were pleased at the prospect of local people profiting from wind power, rather than non-local developers.  One household raised strong objections later but had moved away from the area before the project came to fruition.  One person from outside the community spoke against a wind turbine at the second meeting but concluded she wouldn’t raise a campaign against it because she could see the support and it was a relatively small turbine.

Further research and attempts to expand membership

Efforts to expand membership of the Association were made through the local press, word of mouth and by placing leaflets in places such as the village hall and the vegetable box scheme. 

Three members were given responsibility for managing the development process for a while, including the turbine choice and system design, in exchange for some money and the promise of some shares. 

Nevertheless, a huge amount of time was donated by these and other individuals.

Negotiations with land owners of the favoured site

The intention at this time was to place a 30kW turbine near the existing 15kW turbine just above CAT. 30 kW was calculated to provide enough power for most of CAT’s electrical demand, with most of the rest being available for conversion to heat. Export to the grid was not intended to be very significant so the implied upgrade to the weak local Grid from CAT was not a big issue at this time.

The land was owned by a Trust and only one of the four decision-makers was local. This made effective communication difficult.

Securing grant aid

Ecodyfi successfully applied to the ScottishPower Green Energy Trust for a grant to add to the one already secured from the European Commission (ERDF). 

Powys Energy Agency incorporated the project into a funding agreement it had with the Energy Saving Trust (EST).  Part of the EST money was used as a capital grant and the rest was used to buy shares. These were vested in the local Community Energy Fund, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions and address fuel poverty.

Preparation and submission of planning application (including a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment); negotiation with planners where appropriate

Significant amounts of time were spent on the planning application process by four local professionals, who did not charge at that stage but who eventually were rewarded with shares as recompense for their work on landscape, noise and other predictive work.

Achievement of planning consent with unforeseen design changes (so that the turbine could be ordered when money became available)

Only one individual letter of objection was received to the planning application. The Snowdonia National Park Authority objected on the grounds that it would be visible from the Park and the Countryside Council for Wales expressed some doubts.

Despite earlier promises, it became apparent that the 30kW turbine under development in Germany would not be available in the UK soon enough for this project.  An alternative 2-bladed turbine was ruled to be unacceptable by the planning officer.  The nearest equivalent was a 50kW turbine from the USA, so costs and designs were recalculated on this basis. When the planning officer opposed the lattice tower that came as standard, the possibility of commissioning a suitable tubular tower in the UK was explored.  Eventually this factor and the rapidly changing dollar exchange rate made the capital costs exceed the budget and the change to a second-hand 75 kW Danish turbine was made.  This was accepted as an amendment to the application.

Signing up of land owners concerned in the new site

The increased output from a 75kW generator implied a need to strengthen the low-capacity connection between CAT and the local grid in order to cope with the “spill”.  This became an issue with the landowner, who also owned some of the land required for this cabling.  He eventually withdrew his cooperation and an alternative turbine site on nearby Forest Commission (now Natural Resources Wales) land was negotiated with them and the planning authority.  This required a complete re-design of the electrical circuits, with the longer cable route from the turbine to CAT crossing the land of two farmers and needing extra transformers.

Forest Enterprise helpfully felled trees to assist construction of a short access track from existing forestry tracks. They also agreed a temporary access licence for construction and a longer term lease at a “non-commercial” annual rental. The project was in line with the Woodlands for Wales strategy for involving communities in woodlands.

The two farmers chose to take cash rather than the shares offered for their partnership.

Negotiation of terms for electricity sales

Although the revised configuration of the cabling (from the turbine, through an existing grid connect point and on to CAT) would make it possible for the group to export to the local grid if necessary, the original model of supplying a single user was retained.

This provided the security of a long-term agreement in a volatile market at a time when the electricity market itself was undergoing radical change. It also maintained the partnership with CAT.

The purchase agreement had three price tiers, to reflect the usage of the power. The first tranche produced (per year) has a high value because it will replace electricity that would otherwise be imported or expensively generated on site. The price of the second tranche reflects a heating fuel value, and any surplus production has a lower value, representing “spill” to the grid. 

CAT were given rights to any renewables benefits.  As it turns out, this represented a much higher value during the first year of operation than anticipated, because the value of Renewables Obligation Certificates had been higher than originally predicted.

Ordering of wind turbine and issuing of contracts for construction and commissioning

One member was a hands-on engineer with experience of wind turbines. He ended up being the lead member of the construction team, but at an earlier stage the group sent him to Denmark to examine the proposed turbine and to negotiate essential refurbishments. These were carried out by the original manufacturer (Vestas) before shipping, apart from the painting of the tower. This was carried out by volunteer members after delivery.

Invitations to tender were issued to relevant civil engineering companies, though it was hoped that a consortium of CAT and local individuals (such as a JCB operator) would be formed and bid. In the end the contract was placed with CAT, who sub-contracted locally. Some sub-contractors chose to take shares instead of cash, as did CAT Consultancy (for their profit element).

Build community group membership from the local community through marketing activities and register group as Industrial & Provident Society

A legal identity with limited liability was required so Bro Dyfi Community Renewables Ltd (BDCR) was formed.

A specialist solicitor recommended registration under the I&PS Act rather than the Companies Acts, mainly because such Rules are designed to provide one vote per member rather than one vote per share.

There are other constitutional models for community ownerships organisations. 

Attract sufficient share finance

The share offer was issued by the Renewable Energy Investment Club (REIC) to its members, on the basis of information received from BDCR. BDCR made a presentation to REIC members locally at a special meeting.

All members of the DVCWP had been given free membership of REIC, since this was to be REIC’s pilot project. REIC had been set up by Dulas Ltd and Groundwork Bridgend during an EC-funded project to facilitate the purchase (by qualifying individuals) of shares in renewable energy projects, where the issue of a prospectus to the general public would be prohibitively expensive.

Baywind Energy Co-operative agreed to underwrite the offer – they would buy any unsold shares. This gave the group the confidence to proceed. In the event the share offer was over-subscribed and individuals had to be limited to £1,000 each. The minimum shareholding was set at £100.

Commissioning the turbine and connecting it to the grid

There was a delay of several months when everything was ready apart from the grid link. One of the problems was the lack of clarification of responsibilities between CAT (as construction contractor with responsibility for ordering the grid connection from Manweb) and BDCR (with prime responsibility for landowner agreements), such that Manweb assumed they could use methods of working that had not been agreed with the landowner. 

Another long delay resulted from a pre-existing issue between Manweb and a landowner that was not related to the project.

Holding of a public launch event

This was a wonderful day, with a great sense of celebration and occasion.

Administration of BDCR

When running a community energy project it is essential that thinking is given to the ongoing running and administration of the organisation.

Preferably, in our opinion, a proportion of generation income should be channelled towards employing someone locally on a part time basis to run the affairs of the business… don’t forget that it is a business and that it is in the interests of the Members (if this is your model) to ensure good management to ensure the effective running of the projects for their lifetime.