​I am a child of community energy

I am a child of community energy. For me, it’s the normal every day. The hastening click of the inverter monitoring each Watt hour of sunshine from the PVs, for me, marks the unmistakable sound of summer. The ‘gin-poles’ of the cooperatively owned domestic turbines in the field made excellent climbing frames and were the centre of many games. The bigger the village turbine, nicknamed Fiona, has been a part of our family life since 2010 (not including the years of planning and plotting to get her up).

This was my life at Hockerton Housing Project – a community of five families that came together with a core mission of ‘acting as a catalyst for change towards sustainable development’. The homes themselves are passive: they’re super insulated, have heat batteries and require no heating beyond that from the sun and our body heat. The electricity they do use comes from the two small five and six kilo Watt domestic turbines and two photovoltaic arrays.

A view from the green roof of my childhood home, with the first solar panels and wind turbine installed. Image thanks to Hockerton Housing Project. 

My family moved into our low carbon home in early 1998 but the renewables were all later additions to the site. It took a little while to get planning permission for the first turbine: back in the late 90s community energy projects were pretty unusual. The neighbours weren’t overly pleased about the prospect of road accidents, bird deaths, spooked horses, and unrelenting noise that result from domestic turbines. Fortunately the first turbine didn’t live up to these expectations and by 2008 the whole village had decided it wanted its own. And so, Fiona was born. Fiona is a second hand, 225kW Vesta and she certainly had her fair share of teething problems. She got her name after one too many incidents of unfortunately timed texts sent to my dad, Simon, whilst on family holidays. I still associate ‘wind turbine breaker trip’ alerts with my dad’s ringtone. She’s the only person to ever text him – his other woman.

Hockerton residents celebrate their new village turbine. Image thanks to Hockerton Housing Project. 

Now settled into her not-so-new home at Hockerton, Fiona majestically watches over the village, keeping all the lights on, providing grants to residents and funding ‘sustainability’ parties. It’s hard to describe the impact that she, and the community that built her, has had on me. Perhaps what I treasure most is the deeply engrained belief that humans have an incredible capacity to cooperate, that neighbours, of all types, can look past their differences and take their futures into their own hands.

I implore you to reach out to your neighbours – smile as you pass them in the street and chat over the garden fence – before you know it you’ll be changing the world with them. Communities hold the key to our collective futures – it’s not a pipe dream, it’s happening now and you can be part of it.

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