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Want to go green? Buy a windfarm!

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With many people wanting to reduce their impact on the climate clean energy ownership of solar panels has been a popular addition to homes, but what if you can’t add them to your property? A new approach looks to give an alternative way for homeowners to generate green energy.

Ripple Energy have teamed up with Co-op Energy to build an electricity generating wind farm that you can buy into to reduce the cost of your electricity bills. The Graig Fatha Farm will be Britains first consumer-owned wind farm and is expected to reduce investors bills by up to 25%.

Having worked in the electricity industry I think this is a fascinating approach that has a number of benefits over a traditional solar panel solution.

I first came across Ripple Energy via the recently closed Seedrs.com campaign that allows members of the public to invest in businesses. Disclosure: I did invest in the business but this isn’t a sponsored post.

How does it work?

Ripple Energy are the company behind the wind farm building and management project, the farm itself will be owned by the Co-op.

Image Credit: Ripple Energy

Consumers investing in the wind farm automatically become a member of the Co-op and once construction has completed they recieve the electricity generated by the farm. They have a great video explaining the proposition:

Ripple Sign up Process & Costs

Signing up is easy, just go to https://rippleenergy.com/ (referal link) and you’ll find the process similar to signing up for a regular utility contract, you need to enter your postcode and annual electricity usage (available on a recent electricity invoice).

The amount of energy you use is important to get right as it’s the basis for your quote. Apparently the average household uses 2,900 kWh annually, using that figure gives you an investment cost of £1882 if you wish to cover 100% of your electricity.

Cost of Ripple if you use 2900 kWh annually.
Ripple Energy quote for someone using 2,900 kWh annually

If you’ve a lot of technology and/or are an electric car user your annual usage is likly higher and your quote will reflect this. Here’s a quote if you use 4,800 kWh annually.

Ripple Energy quote for someone using 4,800 kWh annually

The slide bar allows you to adjust your investment and update the figures in real time, you don’t have to cover 100% of your electricity, you could cover 50% and gain some savings on your bill. What happens if you don’t cover 100% of your usage? Don’t worry, your supply doesn’t get turned off, you would get supplied via an alternative method and this would be added to you invoice.

You can also see a cost breakdown of these fees. For the person using 4,800 kWh annually the total cost is £3114 which is made up of £2965 construction costs and £148 arrangement fee (the cost to make this happen).

The upfront cost is a lot of money if you want to cover 100% of your usage, great to see the full payment can be split into 5 smaller payments rather than a single lump sum.

It’s good to see the quote being up front about the amount you should save over 25 years, when I investigated solar power I had to do a lot of working out myself to see the potential savings and pay back period.

Savings

Although the farm generates power this unfortnatly doesn’t mean your electricity bill drops to nothing. Being able to plug in to a power outlet is something we take for granted but the system behind it is hugely complicated and your bill is made up of more than just the cost of the power you use. The electricity generated by the wind farm is estimated to reduce you bill by around 25% assuming you own enough to cover 100% of your consumption.

There is a second great expaliner video on how clean energy ownership helps to reduce your bill:

As the farm only generates electricity it doesn’t impact your gas bill. While most will have gas and electricity from the same supplier this isn’t a requirement.

In terms of real savings, I found that living in Manchester and signing up in January 2021 with a 4800 kWh annual electricity usage would have me placed on the Co-op Flexible tariff which supplies 100% renewable electricity. The estimated cost is £114 a month, once the wind farm is operational this reduces to £96 a month (or £216 annually as per the quote).

Keep in mind this is a long term investment, you’re looking at buying in to a system that will supply you for 25 years and my experience is electricity prices generally increase every time a fixed deal comes to an end, this is a way to stabilize electricity costs.

At the time of writing Ripple are working with the following energy supply brands:

  • Octopus Energy
  • London Power
  • M&S Energy
  • Coop Energy
  • Affect Energy

If you’re supplied by anyone else you’ll need to move to Co-op Energy to benefit from energy generated by the wind farm. Ripple hope to expand the number of electricity suppliers they work with to give end users the flexibility to move suppliers, but for the first 2 years you’ll be locked in to using one of the existing partners.

The team are currently in discussions with 5 additional suppliers and have secured a second wind farm project, which should launch sumer 2021.

If you’ve got/eventually get an electric vehicle you can switch to Octopus Agile or Octopus Go (as long as you have a smart meter) which offer lower cost car charging overnight. A smart meter isn’t required for the swap to Co-op Energy.

One thing to note, as you’re buting shares you’re able to nominate a next of kin. Should something happen to you in the next 25 years that person will inherit your shares.

Wind vs Solar

I’ve looked in to having solar panels but never went ahead due to the number of strings attached.

Reasons not to get solar panels for you home:

  • You need to be authorised to install panels
  • Your house needs to face he right direction to make the best use of them
  • Sun required (I live in Manchester, I don’t get much of it!)
  • If your house isn’t in an ideal spot you need to fit panels front and back (upping the cost of installation).
  • If you move you leave the panels behind
  • They look ugly!

Buying in to a wind farm has none of these issues and gives you access to a more efficent power source, with one swoosh of the turbine’s blades potentially producting up to 8 hours of power for your home (assuming a typical demand of 2.9MWh).

There’s no need for any form of construction or change to your house, so flat owners can also benefit. You don’t even need to own the home, just be the person who pays the bills, which means if you move you don’t stop benefiting as you can just swap the electricity supplier at your new address to one working with Ripple.

Of course there is one advantage to solar, power is available once you’ve had it fitted. At the time of writing the farm is under construction and is expected to come online October 2021, so investing now requires a little patients.

Don’t worry if you already have solar and recieve Feed in Tariff (FiT) payments, there is no need to make any changes to your FiT contract.

Business Options

I’ve focused on the consumer angle, how you can power your home with wind, but there is also an option to use this for your business allowing you to generate zero carbon electricity.

If you’re a business owner there are 3 options you can consider:

  • Power your business – Own a share of the farm to generate power for you business. It’s estimated that a UK business using 50,000kWh per annum could save 12,50kg of CO2 each year!
  • Offer to employees – Help staff reduce bills and go green by helping them become share owners. With so many staff now working from home this would be a far greater benefit than traditional eating out discount cards or on site gyms
  • Offer to customers – Not yet avaiable, this is an interesting idea, potentially a benefit for cusotmers that could really compliment your business depending on the sector you work in.

As someone who managed projects for the introduction of staff benefits (using the excellent Reward Gateway) as well as the development and introduction of new products to offer customers I think Ripple Energy are on to winners with these options.

I hope they partner with firms like Reward Gateway to open this offer up as a benefit to staff.

With over 5300 customers already pre-registered for this initial farm you’ll be pleased to know additional projects are in the pipeline, so if you decide to wait you’ll have additional opportunities to invest in your own slice of wind farm in the future.

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Mark J Draper is a self-confessed gadget lover who forged a career in the telecommunication and utility industry while maintaining a hobby of writing and filming reviews that are published on YouTube and Reviewify.co.uk.

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