The Sheringham Shoal Community Fund, set up by the owners of the offshore wind farm to help local 'green' projects, has awarded a grant of £6,800 to Kickstart of Dereham to invest in energy-efficient electric mopeds.
In a rural county such as Norfolk, travelling long distances to work or college is the norm, and for those reliant on public transport this may be impossible or if not impossible, constraining. Buses and trains do not always run at convenient times. This is a problem not encountered or even imagined by people living in cities.
And this is why Kickstart began - with two ladies who responded to the plight of two local youngsters who could not get to college by public transport, and bought mopeds for them to use. The number of bikes they bought out of their own pockets rose to ten, before, in 2000, the husband of one of the ladies began to research funding for the project. He found success in a number of areas, and was able to register Kickstart as a charity, increase the number of bikes to 40, and hire premises in Dereham. The project has had its ups and downs over the years, but today it employs nine members of staff, has a fleet of 261 mopeds, is 100% self-funding, and is the country's largest operation of its kind.
Dale Curtis took over as Project Manager in 2012, at a low time in the charity's history. Funding had dropped and he needed to find ways of sustaining income. "I was on a mission to keep Kickstart running for our clients and staff," he explains. "Fortunately, Norfolk County Council could see the benefits of the operation, and gave us a one-off grant to plug the gap while we got back on our feet. We built up our fleet by investing in more petrol-driven mopeds - the best option available at the time."
It has been Dale's vision to expand the fleet with energy-efficient, greener, lighter, electric mopeds. Kickstart owned just one electric moped four years ago; it was big and cumbersome, and not very popular! However, he did his research, found a suitable machine at a reasonable price from a Yamaha dealer in Stafford. He discovered that battery development has moved on apace over the past few years. The battery pack on the new Yamaha is only one fifth of the size of Kickstart's first electric moped, and allows it to run for twice the distance (35 miles) before it needs recharging, (which can be achieved using a normal domestic supply), at the same speed as 50cc petrol moped.
With all his facts to hand, Dale applied to Sheringham Shoal Community Fund for a grant to purchase the mopeds. This fund is managed by the Norfolk Community Foundation and provides grants to North Norfolk community groups that are looking for financial assistance for projects that fulfil strict criteria.
The application from Kickstart was successful, and Dale took delivery of the five Yamaha mopeds on 22nd December 2014.
The plan is to implement a 6-month trial of the mopeds with suitable clients, to make a comparison of cost, reliability and ease of use, with petrol-driven vehicles. "With a range of 35 miles before needing a 6-hour battery recharge, these mopeds won't be suitable for all our clients," explains Dale. "I see them coming into their own for point-to-point use - that is for someone to get to work or college and back home; they haven't the range for wider use. But if the trials prove to be successful, I would like to see 50% of our fleet being electric mopeds in the future.
"I am very grateful to the Sheringham Shoal Community Fund for allowing Kickstart to set off down the road of clean energy. Although development of the battery pack hasn't gone far enough to allow us to go all electric, it has taken huge strides when you compare them to what was available only four years ago. Today, huge investment is taking place in in battery development, and I'm very optimistic that we shall be able to go down this route in the future."
Since its establishment in 2010, the Sheringham Shoal Community fund has made grant awards totalling around £280,000 to local organisations.
The 317MW Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm comprises 88 wind turbines and is located between from 9-17 miles off the North Norfolk coast in the Greater Wash. Through Scria Offshore Energy Limited it is owned by two Norwegian companies, Statkraft and Statoil, and the UK's Green Investment Bank.
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