Sun shines on renewable energy co-op

The Renewable Energy Co-operative (R-ECO) is helping to a major regeneration project in Cornwall to become carbon neutral by installing a range of sustainable energy technologies including solar photovoltaics.

The project called Heartlands is a £35m transformation of 19 acres of old tin mine land into a cultural space for community and visitors. On completion, the development will feature a working tin mine, business units, community facilities, performance and event areas, and residential accommodation.

Abraham Cambridge, technical director of R-ECO, said: “Heartlands is an amazingly innovative and ground breaking project. We are witnessing the transformation of a symbol of the bygone days of Cornish tin mining, and replacing it with a delectable selection of sustainable technologies.”

Co-operative & Community Finance made a loan to R-ECO to be used for working capital as the co-op takes on more work. Formed in 2008, it now has 10 employee-members who all share an interest in green energy and have a background in the building trade.

Prior to the work on the Heartlands development R-ECO celebrated the completion of its first community project, which saw the installation of a PV system on a theatre roof in Cornwall. Its work resulted in a 70% reduction in the theatre’s energy bill.

Other work includes the installation of a ground mounted system at a farm in Oxfordshire and various projects involving a factory roof, police station and agricultural building in the south west of the country.

The co-operative is passionate about driving the renewable energy industry forward. R-ECO is a pioneer of solar farms in the country, and won a business innovation award in 2010.

Abraham Cambridge said: “We had a desire to provide a more ethical, affordable and accessible service to the public.”

With this purpose in mind, R-ECO is working to alleviate fuel poverty, which is common in areas throughout the UK and especially in the south west.

R-ECO has big plans and far reaching social goals in mind for the future. The members desire to help set up other worker co-operatives under the same model.

They hope to partner with community organisations to provide free electricity for schools and community centres, and plan to use various profits to install more energy units on additional community sites.

R-ECO has expanded out of Cornwall by setting up a new office in the Reading area. It also plans to diversify into installing solar thermal units and wind turbines. The members hope more renewable energy co-ops will grow out of the company.

Heartlands will be opened later this year including a working model of a tin mine engine house, conference facilities and low cost office space.