Plans to launch an electric community car club as part of the development of a new renewable electricity generation and storage project in South Yorkshire have taken a step forward.
Independent renewable energy firm Banks Renewables is looking to create a new solar and battery energy park at a 116-hectare site to the west of the Todwick Road Industrial Estate in Dinnington, that will have an installed capacity of up to 49MW, along with a 50 MW battery storage facility.
As part of the company’s policy of delivering tangible benefits to the communities in which its operations are based, the project would bring an annual package of community benefits totalling £50,000, or more than £2,000,000 through its lifetime, to support local community projects.
Since launching the Common Farm Solar Energy Park last year, Banks has been working with local people and community leaders to explore a range of different options for using this capital, so that it would support the delivery of a range of community improvements that would meet local priorities and have the maximum possible long-term impact.
The idea was put forward for an electric community car club, which would see an electric vehicle and charging infrastructure being made available for Dinnington residents to book and use at minimal cost.
Banks commissioned a feasibility study to look at the practicalities and cost of setting up and running the project, which would be designed to relieve costs associated with running private motor vehicles, reduce local vehicle-related emissions and provide a community service for those who do not have the ability to drive or access transport.
The report has now confirmed that, with an investment of around £125,000 over the first five years of the Common Farm project’s operation, an initial electric vehicle, charging points and the required management resource could be provided, with a view to further vehicles following in the future if the project is a success.
Options around a volunteer driver service are being considered, while Banks also found that a large majority of Dinnington residents who were surveyed about whether they would make use of a community car club said they either would (50 per cent) or might (40 per cent).
“Creating an environmentally friendly, sustainable car club which enables both drivers and non-drivers to access essential services at a low cost would be a significant benefit to the community”
Jamilah Hassan, community relations manager at The Banks Group, says: “We’ve looked at the operations of other community car clubs around the UK to see how their ways of working might be adopted to the particular needs of the Dinnington area, and know that transport and access to services and employment are important issues for local people.
“Creating an environmentally friendly, sustainable car club which enables both drivers and non-drivers to access essential services at a low cost would be a significant benefit to the community, and our initial investigations have confirmed that this is something that the Common Farm Solar Energy Park could help bring into being.
“More work needs to be carried out on developing the finer details of how the club might run and sharing information across the community about how it might work, but there is clear evidence of community demand for such a project and we’re very encouraged at the prospect of initiating something that would benefit local people in lots of different ways.”
The Common Farm Solar Energy Park would sit around three miles to the east of Banks’ Penny Hill Wind Farm and generate enough renewable electricity to meet the average annual requirements of up to 18,800 family homes and would displace over 11,470 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network each year.
A battery electricity storage system would link directly into the Thurcroft electricity sub-station around three kilometres to the north of the site, which will help support the long-term security of energy supplies to UK consumers.
Jamilah Hassan continues: “The Common Farm Solar Energy Park will deliver a wide range of environmental, economic, social and energy security benefits, and we’re very encouraged by the positive community response we’ve had in response to our proposals.
“Maximising the production and storage of renewable electricity from domestic indigenous sources within the UK is a crucial part of our nation’s ongoing journey towards its Net Zero targets, especially with the current energy security and cost of living crisis in mind.”
A planning application for the project was submitted to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council last summer and is expected to come before its planning committee in the coming weeks.
Full details of the proposed development can be found at www.banksgroup.co.uk/commonfarm, while members of the project team can be contacted with any queries about the proposals via email@example.com