The Cheshire village of Ashton Hayes is being used by EA Technology as a test bed to develop a new way of generating and managing energy locally. The model, for a community of 1000 people, would then be available as a template for other communities.

As part of the Ashton Hayes ‘Going Carbon Neutral’ project EA Technology is aiming to create a new type of community energy services company (ESCO). With the village residents and facilities such as the village school as shareholders, the ESCO would be responsible for generating energy locally to match the needs of the community. Electricity would be generated communally from renewable sources sited in the village, including wind, solar and biomass, with the possibility of using underground energy storage systems.

EA Technology consultant Dr Mary Gillie said: ‘The trick is to build a new type of local energy economy. This has never been tried in the UK before, but is potentially far more effective at achieving energy self sufficiency and carbon neutrality than people taking action on their own.’ Gillie adds: ‘An example of how the community energy economy would work is that during the holidays when children are at home, the ESCO would sell electricity from solar panels on the school to householders. When children are in class and parents are at work, the ESCO would sell the electricity generated on people’s houses to the school.’

The project is a collaboration between EA Technology and the University of Chester, supported by an £86,000 ($150,000) grant from Carbon Connections UK, an investment body based at the University of East Anglia. They are working in partnership with Ashton Hayes Parish Council.