ENVIRONMENT

Bishop Cornish CofE VA Primary School pupils become Ripple Energy’s youngest group of shareholders as they purchase part-ownership in new wind farm, protecting their school from the shock of soaring energy bills and saving 802 tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of planning an estimate 66 hectares of forest, or 33,000 trees.[1]

This Global Wind Day – the annual international celebration of clean wind power on 15 June – pupils at Bishop Cornish CofE Primary School in Saltash, Cornwall, brought a breath of fresh air to net zero, sharing a new way in which schools, businesses and individuals can stabilise their electricity bills by owning part of a large-scale wind farm.

The school and pre-school, which has 242 pupils aged 2-11, will be benefitting from shares in an 18.8MW wind farm nearly 500 miles away at Kirk Hill in Ayrshire, Scotland, in a project enabled by Ripple Energy. The Kirk Hill wind farm is thought to be the world’s largest consumer-owned wind farm and the second of Ripple’s revolutionary people-powered projects. The power generated by the wind farm will cover 100% of Bishop Cornish’s electricity needs, and in return the school will benefit from total electricity bill reductions of an estimated £235,000 and total carbon savings of 804 tonnes over the 25 years of the wind farm’s lifetime.

Sarah Adkins Chair of Trustees for Bishop Cornish Education Centre Charity: “100% renewable energy generation was a pipe dream when we set up our school charity in 2004. Since then, we have raised £400,000 to build our multi-award winning eco-education centre, become the first ‘Zero to Landfill’ school in Cornwall and begun investing in amazing creative and sustainable learning environments and skills for our children. With over 30 years’ experience in wind energy on our charity board and after due diligence we are thrilled to have achieved, through Ripple Energy, our net zero goal – we could not have achieved this alone.

In addition, once the difference between wholesale electricity prices and the low wind farm operating costs are rebated on a monthly basis, our charity and the school will be able to focus on what matters most – nurturing in our children a lifelong love of learning and caring for each other and our environment.”

Tracey Fletcher, Headteacher at Primary School, said“For us as a school we are absolutely delighted that Bishop Cornish Education Centre Charity has invested in the Kirk Hill Wind Farm. For us, it is much more than the welcome savings on our ever-increasing energy bills; we will be able to provide our children with the understanding and knowledge that they too can make a difference to a global climate crisis that we can no longer ignore.”

The purchase comes as energy prices in the UK are set for a continued period of instability. The energy regulator Ofgem has already announced that the annual energy price cap will increase to £2,800 in October[2] – a £1,573 increase from the beginning of the year.[3] And headteachers across the UK have warned that their schools are facing a 100% increase in energy costs over the next year, with many schools forced to cut budgets and redistribute their spending from classroom time and equipment for pupils to energy bills – making a choice between lighting and learning.[4] 

The Kirk Hill project will help Ripple members like Bishop Cornish School stabilise their electricity bills, as they benefit from direct savings to their bills based on the electricity their share of the wind farm generates. Ripple’s model enables members of the public and businesses to buy into low-cost renewable energy projects no matter where they live in the country – a way for all people to generate their own energy and save money off their electricity bills, protecting them from price spikes.

Bishop Cornish School is one of 18 businesses and 5,603 individuals that have bought into the Kirk Hill wind farm co-op, raising a total of £13.2m and making it the largest amount raised by any UK Co-op Society in a single offer, according to the trade association Co-operatives UK. Kirk Hill will also create total carbon savings of 12,750 tonnes CO2 per annum – that’s the same as the weight of 140,000 baby elephants – or over 2.2 tonnes on average per owner.

Sarah Merrick, CEO of Ripple Energy, said: "Owning part of a wind farm is the easiest way to protect yourself from future energy price spikes. Wind delivers clean, stable-priced power for the long term. We want as many people as possible to benefit, while also reducing their carbon footprint.

"It’s fantastic to see the breadth of people joining Ripple’s consumer-led energy movement, with Bishop Cornish leading the way in demonstrating how schools and other businesses can support clean energy and take control of their electricity costs, creating a greener future at the same time."

Ownership in the Kirk Hill wind farm is six times that of Ripple's first wind farm Graig Fatha in Coedely, South Wales, which began operating in March 2022. Owners get savings applied to their electricity bill that reflect the difference between the market price for electricity and the wind farm's low and stable operating costs. When market prices are high, like at present, savings are high. When the market price is lower, savings fall too. The net effect is to help stabilise bills.

Graig Fatha’s 907 owners have already seen collective bill savings of over £57,000 between March and May.      

Ripple is designed to be accessible to all: even if you can’t put solar on your roof or don’t have the opportunities to make energy efficiency improvements to your home because you rent, you can still have your own source of low-cost, clean energy.

And Ripple’s innovative people-forward approach is gaining momentum: reservations for its third, as yet unnamed, project opened on 4 May 2022 and more than 1,000 people have already reserved their spot. All households can sign up to Ripple, join the co-operative and buy shares in the wind farm in a few minutes. Ownership is flexible, starting at just £25. People can even generate more clean power than they use, as the cap on ownership is the equivalent of 120% of their consumption. The more they own, the more green power they get, the more they save.

In addition to passing savings to Ripple's members, the Kirk Hill wind farm will provide a community benefit fund of £94,000 per year. The co-op will work with the local community to determine the best approach to manage the community benefit fund. Ripple intends to focus the fund on fuel poverty actions or environmental projects, and will be conscious of other local needs when directing exactly how the fund is to be used.

1 . CO2/tree equivalence based on Encon calculations https://www.encon.be/en/calculation-co2-offsetting-trees
2 . bbc.co.uk/news/business-61562657
3 . ofgem.gov.uk/publications/price-cap-increase-ps693-april
4 . independent.co.uk/news/education/school-energy-bill-price-increase-b2066807.html

 

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