In 2017 we were frustrated with our lack of a large renewable energy project to develop, so the SDCE board of directors held a visioning day to consider what the needs of the local community really are and whether we can help. All of us agreed that the lack of affordable housing for local people is a prominent issue in our area and that the current housing developments being delivered are often poor quality, too dense and not built with sustainability issues at their heart. We therefore began exploring the idea of whether SDCE could find some land to develop an exemplar community housing scheme using green energy, integrating sustainable transport, and delivering very environmentally friendly, 100% affordable housing.
A housing project is not dissimilar to a renewables project. It also requires identifying a site, securing the land rights, obtaining planning and other consents and raising finance. We see it as a logical place for a community energy company to redirect its efforts, when the door is closed for renewable energy developments because of the lack of a viable business model and high cost of connecting to the grid.
Embarking on this project is a significant leap forward for SDCE and is a chance to secure the long term sustainability of the organisation. The project could be replicated by other organisations up and down the country. We want to share our learning as we progress, and the development will have huge community benefit for the people who end up living in the properties.