Taking back the power

Here's another one of those gutsy community initiative storys worth celebrating.

Brixton Energy had just closed its second share launch, Brixton Energy Solar 2, which had raised £70,000.  Its first project, Brixton Energy Solar 1, was the UK’s first inner-city community-owned solar power station, a 37kW solar array on the roof of Elmore House on the Loughborough Estate.  The second was a 45kW system spread over the roofs of the 4 housing blocks of Styles Gardens.  I joined Agamemnon Otero of Brixton Energy on the roof of a neighbouring tower block on a crisp and clear winter day, with a clear view over the solar systems that Brixton Energy had already installed (see picture above), to ask him more about the project.

Can someone please explain in simple terms what this amount of power equates to. What size settlement would this cater to, if we were all energy conscious, and using it wisely in our homes, and substituting most of the water heating with direct solar?

What I saw through Rob's excellent summary was a project that engaged with people:

...we knocked on doors and find out what people want. You know, we did public engagement and served organic bread and lentils, but people wanted sandwiches and crisps, so we served sandwiches and crisps.

...all thecommunity. In a mutually respectful process:

At our community engagement events/ workshops and people would say, “I hope you guys can do this again for us and other people”. Our Solar Panel Making Workshops attract, mom’s, grandparents, little kids from the estate and beyond. They’d be making these small solar panels, and saying, “this works”.
Another time, a woman who lives here, a single mum, 4 kids, with 2 jobs, said, “this is good.  I’m saving money on my energy bills, my kids got inspired in your workshops”.  She then said, “I just hope this can go to other estates”.

The philosophy behind this is about so much more than providing electricity.

As soon as you take responsibility for something and you give and you take back and you give and you take back, you develop self will and self belief, and that’s what’s been taken away from people.  Again and again I see that the best way to get people involved is to allow them to take back part of their own autonomy.

Read the full article here, on Rob Hopkins blog.



I've been informed that the NZ regulations regarding energy generation and distribution, and the policy of centralised generation and distribution via big pylons, make for a very different situation than they enjoy in the UK. However, people like Chris Olsen, who wrote this article: http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz/node/3683 are working to make local and disbursed energy generation work for community cooperatives, despite the challenges.

Have a look at the Energy Share website: http://www.energyshare.co.nz/

Scott Willis's picture

Distributed Generation

EnergyShare is an excellent initiative and solar, to turn households into small power stations, is looking more and more feasible. We're learning from Chris Olsen's work as we aim to enhance our wind cluster project in Blueskin with solar. We are getting very close to establishing the Blueskin wind cluster as a social business which will help our solar efforts, our insulation programmes, home energy advice and much more. To get us to the next step, we need to finalise the testing. For that, we're seeking to crowd source the funds we need to install a 30 metre tower on Porteous Hill. Take a look at this: https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/650 . It won't take much to get us into development, but this is all about the community remaining behind the steering wheel.

Breaking the Think Big paradigm isn't easy. We have a a growing body of resources about our journey which will soon be publically available on the website (http://www.blueskinpower.co.nz/).

And follow the project on Facebook too: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blueskin-Resilient-Communities-Trust/18036...

Meanwhile, lets hear about all the other community DG projects out there! Come on, we know you're there...

Scott Willis's picture

Pro bono support

No precise testing with the limited resources we have available, even with all the strong community support, would have been possible without the excellent support we've received from Garrad Hassan, the world's leading wind consultancy, Trustpower who have provided an old testing tower, and Energy3 who are ensuring professionalism in the preparation and for the installation. Of course, the Hikurangi Foundation as a social enterprise incubator is our key partner in this project, see http://www.hikurangi.org.nz/

What transition can do is build partnerships to build greater resilience.