How much wood should a wood chuck chop…

Community Energy Fortnight, which ended earlier this month, was coordinated by our friends at Forum for the Future and supported by the National Trust and other members of the Community Energy Coalition. The aim of the two weeks was to engage people about the wide-ranging benefits of community energy – and inspire groups to set up their own projects too.

Students present the signed petition to Ed Davey at the end of Community Energy Fortnight

Students present the signed petition to Ed Davey at the end of Community Energy Fortnight

The result was more than 20 events, 100’s attendees and a whopping 60,000 signatories for a petition supporting community energy. We showed our support by throwing two events into the mix; one was a tour of our hydro projects in Snowdonia led by community hydro connoisseur Keith Jones (read his blog about it), the other was a community heat workshop in Coleshill, a National Trust village in Oxford.

Surrounded by acres of woodland, Coleshill has an existing biomass which provides power for the community shop and nearby offices, making it an inspiring location for the range of transition town, organisations and community group members who attended the workshop.

So, after a morning of presentations and lunch, the afternoon was spent outdoors, walking off cake, soaking in the late-summer sun and seeing all the kit in action. Other than it being a jolly nice walk, it was a great chance to learn about the sustainable woodland management necessary when developing a biomass project as well as talk to the Coleshill wardens about the technicalities of where, when and how to chop wood for biomass.

General Manager Richard and the Coleshill wardens speak to the group about getting the balance right with biomass and sustainable woodland management

General Manager Richard and the Coleshill wardens speak to the group about getting the balance right with biomass and sustainable woodland management

Coleshill wardens
Coleshill wardens

‘Sustinable. Woodland. Management.’ are words that resonate loud and clear with Dave Elliot, Head Warden in Speckled Wood and first presenter for the day. With the help of volunteers and members of the community, Dave built a timber-framed house with wood sourced from the nearby woodlands. The house was built for long-term volunteers to stay in whilst working with Dave to learn woodland conservation. The project has been a huge success with great community support.

Speckled Wood - the finished product

Speckled Wood – the finished product

Many thanks to Ben Dodd, the passion and brains behind the Woolhope Woodheat Co-operative who spoke to the group about his experiences in setting up a wood co-op and most importantly, sharing his lessons learnt. With heat responsible for 86% of the UK’s energy use let’s hope more wood co-op’s start to take off….if only there were more Ben’s in the country.

Unfortunately, science hasn’t stretched to human cloning yet, but never fear, because Plan LoCal is here! For those that don’t know about it, Plan LoCal is the bible for community energy groups. Developed by Centre for Sustainable Energy and equip with short films, planning application guidelines, feasibility studies and workshop facilitation notes, the pack is invaluable. Harriet White, Community Project Officer at CSE and partnering organiser for the day did a fantastic workshop taking everyone through key parts of the Plan LoCal folder – even sending everyone packing with one of their own!

CSE's Harriet White guides everyone through Plan LoCal

CSE’s Harriet White guides everyone through Plan LoCal

More invaluable lessons were learnt from Jo Dimitri, Project Manager for the National Trust’s Croft Castle biomass, who spoke about the importance of choosing the right technology for the right place, a point which is often ignored but increasingly important as the debates between renewable technology and subsequent impact on our landscape rage on.

Dave shows people how to make a roof shingle - Speckled Wood has 16,000 of these!

Dave shows people how to make a roof shingle – Speckled Wood has 16,000 of these!

With a great range of people from all backgrounds, inspiring speakers, a fantastic location and great weather, the workshop was a great way to spend a Saturday. Many thanks to Forum for the Future for organising Community Energy Fortnight and all involved – bring on 2014!

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