Plan lodged to bring mains electricity supply to off-grid homes in Coquet Valley

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Homes in remote parts of the Coquet Valley could soon be connected to the electricity grid.

Northern Powergrid has submitted plans to bring mains electricity supply to off-grid properties in the Alwinton area.

The power firm says the proposal involving 12km of overhead lines and 4.7km of interconnecting underground cables is ‘a technically feasible mix which minimises the environmental and visual intrusion’.

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The company has already carried out consultation with relevant authorities and local residents and secured backing from Alwinton Parish Council and Harbottle Primary School.

Children who live in an offgrid property in rural Northumberland. Picture: CANChildren who live in an offgrid property in rural Northumberland. Picture: CAN
Children who live in an offgrid property in rural Northumberland. Picture: CAN

In a planning report accompanying its application, Northern Powergrid states: ‘This proposal provides the best possible solution, taking into account the technical constraints of constructing and operating the electrical network in this area and mitigating the effects on the visual and physical nature of the protected landscape.’

Discussions on electrification of the valley date back to 2014 when an indicative route and costs to provide a supply to 21 isolated rural properties and three emergency cell masts which currently rely on diesel generators for power were produced.

Local residents submitted a 450 name petition to Northumberland County Council calling for a mains connection.

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The issue was put firmly in the spotlight when hundreds of homes in the valley were left without power for several days after Storm Arwen in late 2021.

Following a formal request from the Ministry of Defence and Home Office in early 2022 new proposals were drawn up and the design process began again to ascertain the feasibility.

With network reinforcement work complete, Northern Powergrid says the proposed Coquet Valley electrification scheme is now electrically feasible, albeit with design limitations to take into consideration.

Community Action Northumberland estimates more than 350 properties in the county are off-grid.

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“We believe we have the highest number of off grid in the country,” said CAN community development officer Christine Nicholls.

She explained that the charity established an off-grid task force in 2019 to bring key partners together to look at support including grid connections and renewable alternatives.

Diesel generators can prove expensive with households paying between £8,000 and £12,000 per year for four hours of electricity per day.

Quotes of up to £75,000 to be connected to the network have been reported by some families.