The UK government has launched a £15m fund to help rural communities across England to establish their own renewable energy projects.
The Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) will provide grants to conduct feasibility studies and finance the costs associated with applying for planning permission.
The fund can be used to support rural projects across the renewable and low carbon energy spectrum, including wind, solar, biomass, heat pumps, anaerobic digestion, gas combined heat and power, and hydro.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said the fund will be administered by the government-sponsored Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
The first funding of the RCEF will provide grants of about £20,000 for feasibility studies into renewable energy projects, while a £130,000 loan will be then available to help with project costs, such as seeking planning permission and relevant environmental permits.
UK Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: "This investment will help kick start hundreds of clean green energy projects in rural areas across England. This new fund will give aspiring communities access to the cash they need to make this happen.
"Not only can local generation bring people together, boost local economies and drive forward green growth, it can help save money on energy bills too."
UK Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Richard Benyon said: "We are determined to boost the rural economy and protect the environment.
"As well as boosting renewable energy production, the fund will ensure that communities have the funding they need for local projects and priorities in future."
DECC said the investment builds on the success of the Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) launched in December 2011, which helped drive forward 236 community energy generation and management projects across the UK.
Image: UK Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker. Photo: Courtesy of Department of Energy and Climate Change.