Sustainable Hockerton

Simon Tilley lives in Hockerton, Nottinghamshire. In 2006 residents of the village got together to consider how they might reduce their community’s carbon footprint. The result was Sustainable Hockerton which runs a community-owned wind turbine and a solar photovoltaics project which generate enough energy to cover the village’s power use. Revenue funds local projects that support further sustainable development.

Sustainable Hockerton met regularly over a period of two years to think about sustainability locally. Out of that process came the idea of the wind turbine. We’ve since put up some PV systems. Interest in having a wind turbine partially stemmed from what we had already done at Hockerton Housing Project (HHP). HHP is a co-operative housing project comprising of five purpose built eco homes and it’s where I live. The project has two turbines of its own. There was quite a bit of objection amongst the community when we went for planning permission for the first one. With the second one there were no objections. Then the community started to think it was a good idea and wanted to have one to power the village.

We’ve used some of the income we generate to make the community more sustainable. Every home in Hockerton has been offered a grant of up to £200 to do things that save energy and water. Insulating curtains, LED lighting, that kind of thing. If a home wants loft insulation we offer more. About half of the homes in the village have taken up the grants so far. We also carried out energy surveys on three homes in the village.

We started where the energy was with the people involved. There was motivation amongst the community to have a wind turbine so that was the easiest place to start. In some respects though, it’s an unusual way round to do things. Ideally, from an environmental point of view, you would help people save energy before you look to generate it; but we didn’t know how to help people save energy without having some of kind of income to fund it.

Raising the money through selling shares took a lot of effort. We had to sell the idea to the local community and then beyond because we needed more money than we could get from just the village. We did all of this before online crowdfunding websites existed, but we were lucky to get Feed-In-Tariffs which you wouldn’t get for a new project now. To install now you’d need a site with a lot of onsite energy consumption to make it work.

If you’re thinking about a similar project then you need to think about scale. I’ve seen community groups doing quite small PV systems and it’s hard to see the long-term viability in those projects. You’re relying on volunteers to run the organisation because overheads are quite high compared to your income. You might find, further down the line, that you need to employ someone to look after things and in that case you really need either multiple systems or a bigger system. Our Directors are all volunteers but the day-to-day management of the society – selling shares, keeping a register of shareholders, doing tax returns – is subcontracted to Hockerton Housing Project.

We’re currently looking to expand with other renewables because we know that over time those we have will come to the end of their life. We are embarking on a big photovoltaic system on the swimming pool in nearby Southwell. We’re also thinking about the work we support with some of the income. We’re hoping to get a thermal imaging camera to show people in the village where their house is losing energy.



Simon was talking to Caroline Harmon in March 2018.