ASHCOMBE residents are benefiting from superfast broadband and pupils at Gatehouse ACE Academy in Dawlish are enjoying free solar-generated electricity as a result of community benefit payments from Sawmills solar farm near Dawlish
The annual community funding is provided by Solstice Renewables and Belltown Power through the 6.5MW Sawmills Ashcombe solar farm they completed in 2015. The fund is administered by Ashcombe Village Club to support social and environmental projects in the area, and Solstice also established an annual educational fund which is allocated to Gatehouse ACE Academy for field trips to the solar park and in-class educational resources linked to the National Curriculum and related to climate change and renewable energy. Just over a year after the solar farm was completed the new microwave broadband mast has been erected by Ashcombe Estate and will bring speeds of up to 30MB/s at normal broadband prices.
Giovanni Maruca of Solstice Renewables said: We are so pleased that a project that we and the Ashcombe Estate identified with feedback from local residents at the pre-planning stage as perfect for our solar farm community funding has been achieved so successfully. These are great examples of how well-developed distributed renewable generation projects can make a real difference to the work and social lives of people in rural areas.”
Ralph Rayner, Director of the Ashcombe Estate, said: This new technology, which has the potential to be upgraded in future, is a huge boost to everyone who lives or works here or enjoys their holidays on the Estate and should really help the local economy.”
The Ashcombe Estate, which has 70 residents, includes 11 holiday cottages attracting over 4,000 visitors a year as well as several other businesses based within the estate boundary. It has suffered from very poor internet connectivity and endured regular outages whenever an overhead cable was taken down by bad weather.
BT confirmed that it had no plans to bring fast broadband to the isolated community.
It was therefore identified as a key priority when Solstice first approached Ashcombe about its solar farm plans and came top of the requests from residents in the public consultation.