6 Jul 2011
Hard work + Vision= Kilowatts: A story about the Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC)
Naresh Giangrande reports from the EGM of the Totnes Renewable Energy Society.
Nothing sets me off more than people who portray Transition town folk as a bunch of happy clappy, ‘we just vision it and it will happen’ eco activists. Last night’s EGM of TRESOC was a delightful, difficult, heart warming, and frustrating exploration of unknown territory; raw Transition in Action. It was a good example of what happens when a project moves from the great idea phase into real decision involving, in this case, significant sums of money, within a community. Suddenly emotions run high, and fragile relationships can become frayed. Although last night I think we emerged intact, more or less. It is what happens when a community expresses it’s will grounded in a positive vision- amazing things can happen.
The workload for the directors is going through the roof as four projects are taking shape;
The 4.5 MW wind farm development is moving forward, data collection is being done to enable an autumn 2011 planning application to be made.
- An Anaerobic Digestion scheme now has a technology partner, Monsal Ltd who are taking an equity stake in the project, with South Hams District Council and the Dartington Trust also on board.
- There is a request from TQ9 developments for TRESOC to supply a bio mass boiler for the new development at Baltic wharf.
- Lastly and most immediately are solar farms. TRESOC have a technology partner for these developments too, www.sw-solar.co.uk/ who are backed by German businesses who have long term experience of working with communities to create renewable energy projects in Germany where this is the norm. There are four potential projects of between 50KW and 30KW, the first of which could be installed by early autumn 2011.
Those are the headlines, together with the requirement (if all of those project are to be realised) of up to £10 million in finance.
Where it got really interesting was in how TRESOC are engaging with the anti wind folks, who have formed SHOCT – South Hams Opposing Comercial Wind Turbines. They are doing this is 2 ways. Firstly forming the positive alternative- SWISH Supporting Wind in the South Hams (see logo to the right, and you can find them on Facebook), and secondly by going along to SHOCT meetings and wishing to create an “open and civilised debate around the prospect of a wind farm”.
Ian Bright several times emphasised the fact that we are all in this as a community, and more was at stake than just getting some wind turbines built. At stake is the chance to bridge differences, and build community. But not in the vague hackneyed sort of way, but building community based on values of mutual respect, and creating bonds based on relying on each other; and not just the people we agree with but everyone. This is true community, and will create more than KWhrs of renewable energy. We will generate power beyond our imagination.
There is also a significant investment opportunity for those who have the cash to invest, and the vision to see the opportunity. We can get solar PV installed in a relatively short period of time. In some instances with very quick planning permission granted. This will mean TRESOC generating income, making good its promise of profitably developing, and delivering renewable energy in the South Hams. It will mean jobs, reduced carbon emissions, and the responsible development of our local low carbon, low impact renewable energy. It will also mean local investment in local businesses. And we are creating community.
I have nothing but admiration and gratitude to all those who have put their time (and often money) into making TRESOC – and all of Transition Town Totnes work. In doing so we are re-creating the commons, a vital piece of community nearly lost in the neoliberal madness of the last decades. And in doing so we are manifesting our true nature, creating some kind of synthesis of competition and cooperation, individuality and togetherness. Creating Transition initiatives creates the structures (such as TRESOC) that enable us to express some of our deepest longings; common cause and togetherness; and the simple truth that beyond the differences that we so readily see; we are all in essence the same. We give because we want to give. And in coming together with a vision of a peaceful, resilient Totnes more is created that we can have ever hoped or dreamed. It is a bit too early to be dancing on the grave of the fossil fuel industry, but our longing is carrying us and co-creating with us this world of which we dream. This is the true, often hidden power of Transition.