Cornwall Council has launched a £1 million loan fund to help community groups bring their renewable energy projects to fruition.
The Revolving Loan Fund aims to provide groups with access to capital funds to support the cost of initial construction on renewables schemes which it says will pay for themselves over a short period of time, once they are up and running.
Once they have repaid their loans, community groups will be required to spend money generated by their schemes on local projects.
The council has made its Green Cornwall programme loan facility available via The Low Carbon Society, which will then make council approved loans to applicant community groups. The society is working in partnership with Malpas-based Kabin – which supports the development of co-operatives – and Tolvaddon-based Community Energy Plus, to deliver the "viable and sustainable" fund, which it says is the first of its kind for a local authority.
Cornwall Council's Green Cornwall programme manager Steve Ford said: "Renewable energy has the ability to not only decarbonise energy, but provide real community benefits.
"Profits generated as a result of schemes which have received funding from the Revolving Loan Fund will stay with the community, rather than go to the shareholders of commercial businesses based outside of Cornwall.
"And as renewable energy is an infinite resource, these schemes will generate income for communities for generations to come."
One local group who will be looking to benefit from the fund is Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN).
The not-for-profit co-operative has more than 700 members and has set itself a target of generating 30% of the town's electricity needs from local renewable energy schemes by 2015.
Its chair, Steve Frankel, said: "At present, most renewable energy schemes are owned by commercial businesses, but a big advantage of community ownership means that people will see the benefits.
"The Revolving Loan Fund will help communities to develop their own schemes and bring long-lasting benefits."
Kabin's enterprise adviser Paul Martin said: "The total spent in the Duchy on energy is £1.2 billion each year and at least 98% of this spend leaves the Duchy.
"Given that Cornwall has some of the best natural resources in terms of wind, sun, hydro and heat energy it seems only fair that a greater proportion of the economic benefit from these resources is retained in Cornwall.
Community Energy Plus advisor Neil Farrington said: "We are currently working with 15 community energy co-operatives, with more emerging every few weeks."
Cornwall councillor for economy and regeneration, Stephen Rushworth, added: "It is important that we start to keep the benefits of energy in Cornwall."
For more information on the fund visit www.cornwall.gov.uk.