Green Valleys in the Brecon Beacons

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In the Brecon Beacons National Park 30,000 people currently rely on oil or LPG-powered heating systems because they aren't on mains gas.

The Green Valleys is a community interest company based in the 520 square mile National Park. It aims to change the way residents in the park get their energy by helping them establish community-owned hydro electric schemes.

The schemes allow any profit generated by such schemes to be ploughed back into the community for projects such as establishing community woodlands and allotments.

But it's tapping into the area's plentiful supply of water that has been the main focus of project so far.

The Green Valleys is the brainchild of the Brecon Beacons National Park's Grenville Ham, an expert in the renewal energy sector.

He said: "We want to see this area become sustainable in creating its own energy through community-owned hydroelectric systems.

"We don’t want to be at the mercy of expensive corporate companies any longer," he added.

Electric vehicles scheme helps Park go greener

An Eco Travel Network has been established in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

The network came was launched in July 2012 to combat the contribution of traditional road vehicles to the carbon footprint of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

The scheme was launched because a survey showed a visitor to the Park drives an average of 300 miles during a one week stay – at a cost of 50,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

With this in mind, more than 20 electric vehicle charge points have been installed alongside a new fleet of six Renault Twizys.

Carbon-saving result?

  • So far the Twizys have done more than 10,000 miles saving 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Micro hydro takes off

To date, 13 hydro schemes have been established in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

The largest is 36kW community-owned hydro electric scheme in Talybont-on-Usk which has been running since 2006.

This now generates more than £20,000 per year for the local community.

  • The other 12 schemes are mainly small-scale 3kw domestic schemes.
  • These each currently produce around 4,500kw hours of electricity per year - enough for 250 three-bed homes in the national park.
  • There are a dozen small hydro schemes on the starting blocks and a backlog of enquiries for another 130 schemes.
  • Ultimately, The Green Valleys hopes hydro schemes will provide 40 per cent of the National Park's electricity - enough for around 5,000 homes.
  • This equates to an annual saving of 5,000 tonnes of carbon per household - or 15,000 tonnes of carbon per year across the park.

The Green Valleys' aims:

To install enough hydroelectricity schemes to generate around 40 per cent of National Park homes' electricity within 10 years.

Start installing one hydro scheme per month from 2011 - around a dozen schemes have already been designed and are in the final stages before work begins.

Money earned from community projects will be reinvested in other innovative carbon reduction initiatives.

These include:

  1. use of timber from community managed woodlands
  2. photo voltaic panels for village halls
  3. community-owned biodiesel and electric vehicles
  4. mass peat bog restoration
  5. orchard planting
  6. community-owned allotments
  7. re-instating old water mills
  8. car sharing and biodiesel clubs
  9. litter picking schemes

The Green Valleys offers not-for-profit advice and support to communities interested in micro-hydro including:

  1. Feasibility studies and consultancy
  2. Management of local authority and Environment Agency permission processes
  3. Loan and capital financing including advice on grants and Feed-in Tariffs
  4. System design, construction, and maintenance