Green energy town considers going back to the future
A town is looking to embrace its revolutionary past by reversing the trend for buying in power and creating its own instead.
A three-day public exhibition at Wadebridge in Cornwall will explore the possibility of using modern technologies to change the way the town receives its electricity.
Among the ideas being put forward by the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN) are smart grids.
The new technology would allow power to flow both ways from properties which can generate it – such as those with solar panels – lowering electricity costs.
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It is one of a number of different solutions being put forward at the exhibition which starts this Thursday. Professor Stephen Frankel, chair of the board of directors at WREN, said he wanted the exhibition to increase people's understanding of what is possible and what the town was like in the past.
"There's a past, not so long ago, when Cornwall was extraordinarily inventive and was actually a world-class leader," he said. "This was an absolutely cutting edge place. The fact that Wadebridge had one of the first railways in the world should not be forgotten. Wadebridge once had its own gas and electricity works. Now nearly £13 million is going out of the area in energy annually which is twice as much as is being brought in by tourism.
"The first question to ask is, can you go back to a future that is similar to what the past was?"
The network, which has been running energy saving initiatives in the town for the last three years, has been working with Western Power Distribution to establish a range of different energy solutions for the town. As well as smart grid, other ideas include integrated generation and consumption systems. They are also trying to solve what they say is one of the biggest problems with renewable energy, how the energy is stored, for when it is needed.
WREN estimates as many as 20% people in Wadebridge are living in fuel poverty, until recently defined as costing more than 10% of income.
Professor Frankel continued: "One in 5 of the local population has the harsh choice between keeping warm in winter and eating. "Wadebridge people once created jobs out of their ingenuity. The Wadebridge Energy Futures exhibition is designed to ask local people the question; 'do they want to do this again'?"
Wadebridge Energy Futures is a collaboration between WREN, Wadebridge Museum and Wadebridge Chamber of Commerce. The exhibition takes place at Wadebridge Town Hall from 4pm to 7pm today, 9.30am to 5.30pm tomorrow and 9.30am to 4pm on Saturday. An expert panel discussion is scheduled at the same venue for Friday at 7pm and includes the co-founder of the Eden Project Sir Tim Smit.
For more information phone 01208 812992.