Harlech has a special swimming pool, ﬂanked by spectacular sand dunes on one side and overlooked by the famous castle on the other. It is used by individuals and groups from Tywyn to Maentwrog and provides seven local schools with a space for their statutory swimming lessons. This is why community volunteers rallied to take on the organisation after its closure by Gwynedd Council in 2010.
With the help of several grants including £800,000 from the Big Lottery, the not-for-proﬁt pool run by a voluntary Board of Directors has grown from strength to strength and now also offers a state of the art climbing wall and popular cafe.
As the Council had discovered, there are big challenges to running swimming facilities in this age of rising fossil fuel costs and the Board has decided that, as well as diversifying, another approach is needed to safeguard the Centreʼs future. This has brought about the genesis of Harlech Sustainable Energy, a Coop which will enable local people to invest more than their leisure time in this well loved facility. Harlech Sustainable Energy will have a contract with Harlech & Ardudwy Leisure to provide them with subsidised energy from renewable sources.
Harlech Sustainable Energyʼs ﬁrst project will be to buy a 199kW wood pellet boiler to replace the poolʼs gas heating. This will reduce the poolʼs £55,000 a year heating bill by around 50% because wood pellets are cheaper than gas and the UK Government offers Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments for each unit of heat produced from an eligible renewable source for 20 years.
Harlech Sustainable Energy need between £150,000 and £175,000 to buy and install the boiler and raising this capital takes some imagination because projects funded by public grants are not eligible for RHI payments. This has brought on plans to issue a community share offer where individuals from across the area will be given the opportunity to invest in shares of £250 to £20,000 for part ownership of the boiler. Each shareholder will become a member of Harlech Sustainable Energy and have the power to vote on the running of the Coop. The RHI will enable the Coop to pay shareholders their entire investment back over the lifetime of the project plus interest. Similar projects have given members returns of 5 -7 % on shares. The share offer is due to launch in Spring/Summer 2014 to install the boiler in the Autumn - check out http://harlechleisure.co.uk/ for upcoming details.
The Coop Directors are now considering the addition of a 20 - 50kW solar PV array to their ﬁrst share offer. Panels on the poolʼs ﬂat roof could produce free electricity for the leisure facility and a further income through the Governmentʼs Feed in Tariff scheme.
Harlech Sustainable Energy are receiving support from Gwynedd Werdd, Sharenergy and DEG.