International Women’s Day, March 8th 2024

The Westmill Co-operatives are proud to be supporting International Women’s Day this March 8th, by highlighting the Women of Westmill. In line with our core principles of Voluntary and Open Membership and Democratic Member Control, it is a priority for the Westmill Co-operatives to have a diverse and representative leadership and membership. The women who serve on the Westmill Wind and Westmill Solar Boards, and as Trustees for our partner organisation WeSET (Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust), help to make the Westmill Co-operatives exemplars of what can be achieved in community renewable energy. Coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences, they highlight the importance of equal representation and inspire future generations of leaders in the renewable energy sector.

While we celebrate the leadership of Westmill in this post, we would be remiss to not acknowledge the hard work put into the Westmill Community from the WeSET tour guides to Westmill Solar Community Grants Panellists, and, of course, our members. Without your support and voices, the Westmill Co-operatives would not be able to reach for such ambitious goals.

Sarah Flood is the Company Secretary for Westmill Solar Co-operative. Growing up hearing about the hot topics of acid rain, the ozone hole and global warming, Sarah has always wanted to work in roles that would support a healthy planet for us all to live in. After studying Environmental Science at Lancaster University, Sarah’s career has focused on the organisational structures and funding mechanisms that can support positive environmental and social change. Through her career, Sarah has worked with co-operatives, social enterprises and voluntary and community organisations, but it has always been the co-operative model that she comes back to and is inspired by. She appreciates the democratic structure of the model and the ability it gives communities to take ownership and find solutions to problems they are facing. She finds it particularly inspiring in a time when mainstream capitalism can feel so extractive.

Sarah joined Westmill Solar Co-operative at the beginning and has helped support the management of the co-op since it undertook its first share offer and became the UK’s, and potentially the world’s, first community-owned ground mounted solar farm. She highlights that while creating a solution that tackles climate change is at the heart of all activities at Westmill, it is the people involved in the co-op that really inspire her. She says ‘the vision of the founding directors, the continued pioneering dynamic spirit of everyone working on it today, the members who took risk before community energy was as well-known as it is today and invested to do something positive to tackle climate change, the volunteers introducing people to the site, and the people who visit and spread the news – it is hard not to come into contact with what is being achieved at Westmill and not feel the joy and a sense of hope’.

When asked what she would like young people to take from her journey, Sarah says, ‘My pathway to what I do now was not always linear. I knew I wanted to do something that had social good, but I didn’t even know about co-operatives when I started my career. Having a sense of your ideal helps guide you, and it also means that if you are not in your ideal role, you can still think about what it is you want to get from your current role that will help build your skills for future roles’.

Jessica Dunning is a director on the Westmill Wind Co-operative board. A ‘geographer at heart’, Jessica has always been fascinated by the interactions of environment and inequality. She put this interest to good use when completing her Geography dissertation focused on community energy societies and the concept of co-operative energy. She has worked in the space ever since, with South East London Community Energy on their campaign to get more landlords signed up to retrofit their properties; Community Energy London to share the fantastic work of groups across London through technology guides, events, videos and mentoring; and Community Energy England to support their policy and advocacy work. Jessica is now a project manager at Energy4All supporting the development of new rooftop solar sites across several Energy4All cooperatives.

When asked about how she became involved with Westmill, Jessica says ‘Having worked in community energy for just over a year, I was starting to feel ready to get involved in a co-op’s governance and take on more of an active role in a society or co-operative. When working at Community Energy London and Community Energy England, Westmill was frequently used as an exemplar of community energy; the ambition and innovation is contagious, even its imagery is iconic with probably one of the most-used images in the sector! So, when the opportunity came about for me to volunteer for the board, I was extremely excited to be surrounded by the inspirational board members and learn from the best.’ She highlights the ambition of Westmill saying, ‘Westmill challenges the status quo and is always motivated to seek positive, alternative ways forward for community owned renewables. It’s exciting to feel like you’re at the forefront of change.’

When asked what she would like young people to take from her journey, Jessica says, ‘You can work in sustainability and community energy without necessarily it being the main focus of your job or qualification. A just energy transition requires a vast range of skill sets from engineers and accountants to admin, marketing and comms so it’s important not to limit your passions. Instead, find a way for them to work within this space if this is where you want to be. But most of all, it’s to be ambitious – apply for that job, ask that question, and go to that event, you never know what might come of it’.

Alicia de Haldevang is a trustee for WeSET. Spending 24 years in the Middle East, Alicia knows what 50°C+ feels like and is working to make sure the UK does not experience similar climate change induced temperatures. She has spent 12 years in climate change, energy and communications. Currently, she is a sustainability and equalities consultant, focusing on how we design our spaces, places and societies to be greener, healthy, more equitable, and resilient in the face of climate change. Alicia highlights a specific moment in 2018 when she went on a boat to an offshore windfarm and says, ‘it will always be one of the best days of my life’.

Alicia was introduced to WeSET via the site tour co-ordinator who knew she was passionate about renewables. She highlights, ‘I love how I can take a train from my home city, Bristol, to London and spot the twirling turbines from the window. I tell people to keep an eye out for “my windfarm” if they’re in the area. The community and the collective pride in renewable energy and the site inspires me the most, and being a trustee of such a worthy charity, WeSET. Going onto site always makes me feel proud, seeing the turbines and panels up close.’

When asked what she would like young people to take from her journey, Alicia says, ‘My role is to communicate and promote the site, and community energy power. I would say if you have a passion for something, stick to it! I’ve spent years being obsessed with wind power, and I still get to be part of this vital industry.’

Angela Bryant is a director on the Westmill Solar Co-operative board. After completing a master’s degree in mathematics and having a successful corporate career, Angela is now a business founder and consultant who works with health-focused and sustainability-driven organisations to improve their marketing and operations, so that they can create huge impact in the world. The defining feature of Angela’s professional journey has been inspiring and empowering people to take action on climate change, through different avenues. She has previously worked as Executive Director for the charity 10:10 (now called Possible) and Operations Director for a sustainability consultancy. She was also COO for the Quality of Life Foundation, helping to make health and wellbeing central to the way we build homes and communities.

A member of Westmill Solar from the beginning, Angela joined the board in 2020 when they were looking for a marketing expert.  She says, ‘it’s a great way to give back and learn from others, while running my own business.’ She highlights ‘Every time I’m in a meeting with Westmill board members, I am blown away by how brilliant, kind and generous they are. It’s amazing to see what has been achieved over the past decade or so, and how many big ideas there are for where else this journey can take us as we stay at the forefront of innovation in community energy’. 

When asked what she would like young people to take from her journey, Angela says, ‘So many organisations are now recognising the benefits of having a wide variety of voices on their boards, so don’t be put off by the assumption that they’re all male, pale and stale! Figure out what you’re passionate about and search out the organisations that are leading the way with younger and more diverse boards.’

Mairi Brookes is a director on the Westmill Solar Co-operative board. After growing up in Glasgow, Mairi has ‘lived all over the place’. First, as an academic in England studying physics and astrophysics and then in the US as a postdoctoral researcher. After changing careers and pursuing work in sustainability, Mairi has worked on carbon management software, as a civil servant in local government, and is now an executive director for Low Carbon Hub.

When asked what made her want to be involved with Westmill Solar, Mairi answered that she ‘had worked in local government supporting community energy in Oxfordshire for several years but had never been directly involved, so the invite to join the Board seemed like an opportunity to put [her] experience and skills to use and gain first-hand experience of what it is all about.’ She highlights being inspired by the ambitious history of Westmill and the ambition of the current board members to do more.

When asked about what she would like young people to take from her journey, Mairi says she didn’t set out to do this – ‘I’m curious, I ask questions, I take interesting opportunities as they come along and give them everything I’ve got. I’ve never ruled myself out of anything’.

Other board members have also said ‘I first heard about climate change (we called it global warming back then) in 1989 and, as a scientist, had no doubt it was true. That was at a national gathering for Greenpeace volunteers, and I’ve supported campaigns about taking climate change seriously ever since, in many different ways, with many inspirational women. So, investing in and supporting renewable energy projects like the Westmill Wind and Solar Farm has been a no brainer for me.’

Many thanks to the respondents for their participation in celebrating International Women’s Day and for their continued efforts as Westmill leaders. The Women of Westmill, both past and present, have helped to pave the way for future leaders in the renewable energy and just transition spaces, and their leadership continues to push the Westmill Co-operatives towards ambitious goals.

We encourage you to visit the International Women’s Day website and learn more about this year’s theme of Invest in Women. The official website highlights actions that can be taken in pursuit of a gender equal world and contains a multitude of online and in person events around the world pushing towards this goal.

We would love to hear from you. If you would like to let us know about the inspiring Women of Westmill in your life, please email us at

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