Solarcentury helps North Cornwall’s Wadebridge start the race to become Britain’s fist solar powered town.

Published by: Solarcentury
Date: 18/05/2011

However, in contrast to recent green announcements, their success could be limited due to Government proposals to restrict the size of solar installations in the UK. Proposals to limit the Feed-in tariff, payment for clean electricity, to small 50kWp systems means the town wouldn’t go ahead with mid to large scale projects which would bring much needed income into their community fund and help the town meet their renewable energy targets. The Government’s decision on Feed-in tariffs is expected in early June.

The Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN), a not-for-profit co-operative, is putting thousands of solar panels on the roofs of local homes, schools and businesses, allowing them to use the clean electricity, and collect the generation tariff for their community fund. Anyone from the town can join the co-operative and decide how the money is spent there are currently hundreds of members and growing. WREN aims to have 1MW of solar installed across its buildings by April 2012 and 7MW by 2015. Other technologies being explored to help reduce the towns’ dependence on fossil fuels are wind; tidal stream generation; biomass and renewably generated electric transport. This is the most ambitious scheme of its kind in the UK. 

Communities across the country will be interested in Wadebridge, as towns deliberate how to deliver similar renewable energy schemes and how to keep the revenue created for local community investment.  WREN was keen to bring as much economic benefit to the town as possible, creating a compelling and affordable solar offer and local employment, whilst ensuring the best quality and experience in the systems used. WREN has launched a “Solar Club”, offering building owners very competitive rates on solar PV by pooling purchases, whilst those who do not want to pay for the up-front cost will have systems owned by the ethical bank Triodos – who will reinvest the Feed-in tariff income in other renewables projects and ethical, sustainable business opportunities. The systems are being fitted by local Cornish solar installation firm ‘Plug into The Sun’ and designed & supplied by British solar energy company Solarcentury, who have recently been granted a Queens Award for Enterprise.

Stephen Frankel, founder, WREN said: “We have just installed our first ten solar systems, the first of what we believe will be well over a hundred in the town. The response has been overwhelming now that people see solar actually starting to go in. Our motivation is to become more self-sufficient due to the rising price of fossil fuel and our concern for our environment. Our town has great irradiance levels so we knew we had an opportunity with solar to generate a local, low carbon income stream, and be a model for the rest of the UK. Now the Feed-in tariff is here, we could turn that dream into a reality with the finance generated. However we do need to use as much space as possible to meet our needs, the Governments proposals to limit the Feed-in tariff to 50kWp means we can’t go ahead with our larger projects which would bring much needed income into our community fund. The problem with PV arrays is not their size, but who receives the benefits. It makes no sense that the government wants to pull the plug on communities that seek to generate meaningful amounts of energy. We urge the government to listen to the WREN and We Support Solar campaign, and think again as we’re unlikely to bring the full benefit we want to the community without larger projects.”

WREN has also created a “solar allotment” scheme in conjunction with local company e-tricity, enabling members to own shares in larger projects. However this allotment scheme is on hold due to the government’s proposed changes to the tariff. This would produce electricity for a quarter of the town’s domestic needs and an estimated £2.5 million over 25 years for the community fund. The funds will be spent on fuel poverty alleviation, funding energy efficiency measures and more renewables around the town.In addition shares in the solar allotment would be offered to individuals in the area, and deliver a return that is better than that available to savers in banks or building societies, keeping the benefits in the locality.

Tony Faragher of WREN added; “There is a lot of talk about localism and the Big Society, but it can all seem rather vague. Here we are showing what it might mean – reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, becoming more economically resilient, and collaborating for the good of our community. One big problem we have in Cornwall is that so many people have to go away to find well-paid work. WREN is designed to help bring us all the benefits of the low carbon economy, including careers for our kids.”

WREN’s January launch event attracted over 600 people to Wadebridge Town Hall, supported by key townspeople, including the Mayor, Stephen Knightley; Chamber of Commerce Chair, Darren Rowe; leading churchman, Canon Bill Stewart-White; as well as the MP for North Cornwall, Dan Rogerson. Support has been strong due to the opportunity for local investment, local resilience against rising electricity prices and the need to address fuel poverty.  For more information see


For more details contact:

Stephen Frankel of WREN

01208-816818 / 07879-816020


Charlotte Webster of Solarcentury

0207 8030148 / 07990 583307


Notes to Editors

About WREN

WREN is a social enterprise, and was established in 2010 in order that the community of Wadebridge and surrounding villages should benefit from their own natural energy resources, as well as explore the implications of reaching, and exceeding, emission targets. WREN’s aims are:  

1. Establish a low carbon economy within this North Cornwall town and its surrounding parishes (a population of some 10,000 individuals).

2. Invest the benefits within the locality.

3. Subject the process to rigorous evaluation (our academic partners are the University of Exeter Energy Policy Group under Professor Catherine Mitchell.

About We Support Solar

We Support Solar is a network of companies, NGOs and individuals who want solar power to be an important part of the renewable energy mix in the UK.   We are confident that continued investment in solar energy in Britain will create lasting economic, social and environmental change. The group’s supporters include the Green New Deal Group, Friends of the Earth and the band The Klaxons, 275 MP’s, 500 businesses and 1000’s of individuals.  We believe that there is a huge opportunity to change the face of British industry with solar energy. Solar power is an amazing resource with the potential to provide the vast proportion of the world’s energy requirements. Many countries have introduced sustained and strong feed-in-tariffs and other incentive schemes to develop strong and valuable solar industries.


About Solarcentury 

Solarcentury is one of Europe’s fastest growing and most innovative solar photovoltaics (PV) companies. It is the UK’s most experienced PV company.  The private organisation was founded by Executive Chairman Jeremy Leggett in 1998.  Solarcentury, now over 100 staff, continues to grow rapidly with staff levels expected to rise by another 30% in 2010/11 to meet increasing demand for products and services in the UK and throughout the EU.  The company is led by CEO Derry Newman, ex Managing Director Sony UK, and based in London, with staff in the UK, France, Italy and Spain. 

Since 1998, we have managed the installation of well over 1000 solar PV  turnkey projects.  Solarcentury has helped thousands of homes go solar through its supply of systems to housebuilders and through its network of regional associate installers. It is the founding company of the schools initiative Solar4Schools.  In 2008 & 2010, Solarcentury was named the UK’s Fastest Growing Renewable Energy Company by UK’s Sunday Times Tech Track 100. In April 2011 it was awarded a Queens Award for Enterprise for solar innovation.











Solar Aid

In 2006 we established the international development charity SolarAid whose goal is to eradicate kerosene lamps from Africa.


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