A VILLAGE famous as a fracking battleground has reinvented itself as renewable energy hotspot.

Solar panels are being fitted on schools in Balcombe which wants to run completely on renewable energy.

Work started at Balcombe Primary School on Tuesday and is due to start at Turners Hill School on Monday thanks to funding by more than 50 investors.

The work at Turners Hill School will add to panels it already has on the roof and its wind turbine.

It is hoped the panels will be connected in time for the start of the academic year, cutting down on the use of carbon and saving both schools hundreds of pounds on electricity bills.

The work follows a successful pilot last year when 69 panels were installed on a cowshed at nearby Grange Farm and is part of the village’s plan for a a 5MW solar farm at Chiddinglye Farm, West Hoathly. If successful, the final project will match the electricity demand of Balcombe and West Hoathly.

Ben Turney, headteacher at Turners Hill School, said: “This scheme will benefit the community, the school and the children’s understanding of sustainability and stewardship.”

Joe Nixon, spokesman for REPOWERBalcombe, said: "We are very happy to get solar panels up on Balcombe and Turners Hill primary schools. "The kids returning from summer holidays will learn how solar energy works and attend lessons powered by the sun. We are also excited about our plans for Chiddinglye Farm for a 5MW solar farm that will provide more clean energy to our community in sunny Sussex.”

The group said its work had inspired other projects elsewhere across the country, including Moss Community Energy in Salford, as well as groups in Kent and Lancashire.

Dave Cullen, of Moss Community Energy, said: "It's inspiring to see this project in Balcombe. Up in Barton Moss, Salford, we can't wait to get started. Both Moss Community Energy and Repower Balcombe were set up because local people prefer wind and solar, but the government seems determined to make fracking the only option."