AZoCleantech interviewed Sarah Merrick, CEO of Ripple, about the future of consumer-owned wind farms and their potential for moving the green economy forward on a massive scale.
Can you tell the readers a little bit about what Ripple Energy does?
Ripple offers customers the opportunity to stabilize their energy bills by owning a stake in a wind farm. We enable people to take real climate action by owning part of a wind farm alongside thousands of others. Households can buy part of a wind farm to power their homes, helping to reduce and stabilize their bills for the long term and slash their carbon footprint. Ripple makes green energy ownership easy and affordable.
It is greener than a green tariff as our members directly contribute to developing a new wind farm and adding more green to the grid. It is 65% cheaper than installing rooftop solar and is a simple way to own your generation, even if you do not own your home or move house. Our mission is to make renewable energy ownership accessible to everyone.
What are Ripple Energy’s main achievements so far?
Selling out a membership for our first wind farm, Graig Fatha was a massive achievement for the team. It proves that our model of clean energy ownership works. We are very fortunate to have such a vocal and empowered community supporting Ripple’s vision. The interest in our first wind farm proved that people care about where their power comes from. We are excited to see the turbine energized in March and for our members to start seeing savings off their bills.
Our next project in South Ayrshire, Scotland, is taking Ripple’s vision to the next level as we will launch the largest consumer-owned wind farm in the world, formed of eight turbines. We have just announced that membership has opened, and thousands have already signed up. This project will be Ripple’s most significant milestone to date and will demonstrate the success of a consumer ownership model which can be replicated across the country and further afield.
What is a consumer-owned wind farm?
Investing in the wind farm makes you a co-op member alongside thousands of others. Ripple is the managing agent for the co-op and is responsible for the wind farm build, maintenance, and relationship with the suppliers, so members do not have to do anything. The suppliers then supply this cheaper, greener renewable energy to the member’s homes via the grid.
This consumer-owned model allows members to go beyond a green tariff as their investment directly helps build a new wind farm and adds more green to the grid. All while reducing and stabilizing their electricity bills for the long term.
What are the main benefits of a consumer-owned wind farm?
Renewable energy projects get cheaper with scale. Individuals can access large-scale projects traditionally only available to large businesses by coming together as a cooperative. This means members can own a small part of a large-scale project for their source of cheaper, greener electricity.
You cannot own a bit of a coal or nuclear power station to supply your home with electricity, but you can own a wind farm. Through the consumer-owned wind farm model, owning green energy has never been more accessible and affordable.
For example, investing in domestic solar panels can cost almost £5000 for an average UK household. It also requires roof space and can be restricted by location or planning issues. Plus, it is not an option for renters; you cannot take them with you if you move house. Ripple is up to 65% cheaper than installing rooftop solar. It strips away these barriers to renewable energy access and enables wider environmental and energy consciousness.
Why are these types of wind farms important for the future of our planet and net-zero goals?
Tackling climate change is firmly on the political agenda of almost every country in the world. As the lowest CO2 source of electricity, the wind has a crucial role in accelerating a clean energy transition.
To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the world needs to install wind power three times faster over the next decade to stay on a net-zero pathway. Community projects such as ours enable people to hold a physical stake in low-carbon technologies that are futureproofing our planet and bringing us one step closer to achieving net zero.
How can Ripple Energy’s wind farms supply their owners with low-cost electricity?
People pay for their share of the wind farm’s construction costs upfront, so they only need to pay for its running costs on an ongoing basis.
The cost of running a wind farm is around 2p/kWh, which is much lower than the market electricity price (currently around 20p/kWh). Owners, therefore, save the difference between the two.
When market prices are high, like at present, savings are high. When the market price is lower, savings fall too. The net effect is to help stabilize bills.
What is the importance of wind energy and how can we bolster its use worldwide?
Scaling up electricity from renewables is crucial for decarbonizing the world’s energy system – and wind power generation, especially in the UK, is increasingly important in enabling the energy transition.
In the past decade, we have seen the global wind power market quadruple in size and establish itself as one of the world's most competitive and resilient power sources. Wind is clean, free, and readily available – what we need now is the deployment of more wind turbines on a global scale to harness the opportunities it brings for accelerating net-zero.
Can you tell us about the two wind farms you have developed in Wales and Scotland?
Our first wind farm project, Graig Fatha, in Coedely, South Wales, has just started generating power. It is the first-ever wind turbine to be owned by the customers it supplies. It is owned, alongside a co-investor, by 907 members who contributed £2.2m for the wind turbine construction. Those involved will see average annual savings of around 25% on their energy bills across the turbine’s 25-year lifespan, with most members buying enough shares to power their entire homes’ consumption through the power generated by Graig Fatha.
Our next project at Kirk Hill, in Ayrshire, Scotland, will be the largest consumer-owned wind farm in the world. The wind farm will be formed of eight turbines and generate a total of 18.8 MW of clean electricity – enough to power 20,000 households.
We have just opened Kirk Hill for share purchases and have already had thousands of people join. People want simple ways to make a real climate impact while finding new solutions to stabilize their energy bills.
How are these wind farms key to accelerating the United Kingdom’s green energy use?
The current energy crisis has highlighted the importance of renewable energy and in allowing customers to take more control over the type of energy they consume.
Wind is the world’s lowest CO2 source of electricity, and it is playing an increasingly important role in greening the grid as we accelerate toward a clean energy transition. In the UK, we are blessed with this fantastic resource, one of the world's windiest countries.
Do you have any future wind farm developments?
Yes. Now we have proved consumer ownership works, we want to scale it up with much bigger wind farms, with more supply partners, across more countries. We are planning at least five new projects in the next few years. We also hope to offer consumers the chance to be part of offshore wind projects.
Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers that we may have missed?
We were blown away by the level of interest in the Kirk Hill project. If you are interested in owning a part of it, I suggest acting fast.
Where can readers find more information?
More information can be found on our website. A webinar on our YouTube channel describes in detail how Ripple works and how it can help stabilize your bills.
About Sarah Merrick
Before establishing Ripple Energy, I worked in the wind industry for 20 years as an economist, mostly on strategy, energy policy, and communications. I was Head of Public Affairs and vice-chair of RenewableUK, the UK’s wind and marine energy trade body.
As CEO of Ripple, my role is incredibly varied. When you find a start-up, you need to do everything, from investor relations, graphic design and sales, to UX and copywriting. You learn so much so quickly, putting multiple skills to use.
It has been incredible so far, and we have substantial growth ambitions to make renewable and green energy accessible and affordable for everyone. The highlight of my career was seeing Graig Fatha start operating. It was the culmination of everything the team had worked for. It was really special. Now I am looking forward to us filling Kirk Hill and launching bigger projects in the future.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.