Community Energy Fortnight Ran from 24th June to 9th July 2017 These are a selection of case studies from Stories of Change in collaboration with the National Trust and other Community Energy Fortnight Partners. http://www.ukcec.org/about-CEF
Chris Bonfiglioli Story 8 items 04 Jul 2017
Community Energy Fortnight Ran from 24th June to 9th July 2017 These are a selection of case studies from Stories of Change in collaboration with the National Trust and other Community Energy Fortnight Partners. http://www.ukcec.org/about-CEF
On the small Hebridean island of Tiree if the locals talk about the wind turbine at the north east end of the island they don’t call it a turbine but speak affectionately of Tilley and talk animatedly about how it has benefited their close knit community. The name of their 75m tall wind turbine on the windswept island, west of Mull, was chosen by local schoolchildren who were doing a project on the Second World War and thought the light at the top of the tower looked like that on a tilley lamp. As the 653 inhabitants can attest to, wind is something the island has in plentiful supply, so a turbine appeared to be a good way to create renewable energy and generate an income for the island. In just one year Tilley provides enough clean electricity to power the equivalent of 3650 homes for a year. And since the turbines started turning five years ago, the profits from electricity generation - £100,000 per year - have been invested in the community. Andy Wright who is governance and general manager for the Tiree Community Development Trust, responsible for the distribution of funds to deserving projects, says they are very proud of being able to generate energy in a sustainable, green way that also benefits the islanders. Andy said: “There’s not a place you can go on the island without seeing something that has been directly or indirectly benefited from community turbine which is a testament to how the vision for renewables can filter down to all those on Tiree.” The idea behind developing a wind turbine came after a development office from the Scottish government came to Tiree in 2003 with a brief to kick start new community projects and help set up a development trust with the mandate to take these forward. Invitations to help develop the turbine project were made to islanders with specific skill sets, including a former investment banker, a person with project management experience and building contractor Bruce Kemp who went on to become chair of Tiree Renewable Energy Ltd, the company, set up in 2005, that has ownership of the turbine. For Bruce it was a “no brainer” to get involved with a dynamic group of people. He said: “One of the first things we did after feasibility studies had been carried out was to hold a public meeting where we presented the proposal to build a turbine to the island. This was followed by a postal ballot through which 86% of islanders voted in favour which gave us a clear mandate to take the project forward.” This was during the infancy of community renewables expansion in the UK but organisations such as Community Energy Scotland were able to offer support and advice. It wasn’t until March 2010 that, to great fanfare, Tilley the turbine was finally commissioned at a cost of £2.2m - double the estimated budget had the site been based on the mainland. The logistics of building a turbine on an island such as Tiree requires a ferry that carries passengers between the Islands and Peninsulas on the West Coast of Scotland to be chartered to transport the pieces that would become Tilley. The island’s single track roads were widened to transport Tilley from the ferry port to the site of the turbine. Around £400,000 had to be invested to upgrade the grid system so it had the capacity to regulate the current generated by Tilley. But the fact that the project was eligible for the government’s recently announced Feed-In Tariff dramatically change the business plan. Bruce and the team had predicted that in year one they would make £5,000 profit but the additional subsidies took that up to £50,000 for the first year of operations. All profits were to be donated back to the development trust to fund local projects and the upkeep of community buildings and a shop. A youth worker was employed to organise activities, sports clubs and invite people from the mainland to teach art classes. Andy said: “This has meant that youngsters can get out and socialise more and it also has a massive impact on the lives of people who could become isolated, such as the elderly. We also employ an outreach worker and minibus service to take elderly islanders to a lunch club twice a week, to the shops, doctor’s appointments, exercise classes and the bingo on a Friday, A ranger service provides a valuable interface between visitors and locals, makes island more friendly and welcoming.” Tiree Maritime Trust, set up to promote the maritime heritage of the island, is one such group to have benefitted from Tilley. They were given a grant of £38,000 to build a new boathouse for the group in 2013 and a further amount to fund a community sailing programme and purchase six boats. Volunteer director Jo Vale: “The great thing about Tilley is that it gives you funds that then help you to access more funds, We are getting people of all ages who maybe have never sailed before coming along and getting involved in sailing.” Grants are also used as seed corn funding and encouraging people to go out and find what other funding streams are available. The trust believe that by giving a group ten per cent of what their funds it gives them a much stronger case for them to be able to secure other grants. The trusts intervention rate for projects is 25%, having given away £0.5m which has unlocked further funding of £1.5m . Andy added: “There is a confidence that when it comes to tackling community issues we now have both the resources and a belief to tackle problems. By going through the process of delivering such a big project has given people the confidence to deliver other projects that can contribute towards stabilising the population.” Whilst the donated profits have been used to help the community there is also a deeper message being told about carbon emissions and the need to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. Information on output figures are published and related back to household usage and the island has a household retrofit scheme. Groups of schoolchildren visit Tilley and are taught about the environmental benefits of generating renewable energy. . There were plans to put a second turbine in but the reduction in Feed-in Tariffs has made it less economically viable. The development of a local grid system would mean the electricity could be supplied directly to the local community, reducing energy bills in household reliant on costly fossil fuels to heat their houses. There are also high levels of fuel poverty on the island, which has a low wage economy and houses that are old, damp, draughty, not well insulated. An application for a funding to carry out a feasibility study is underway. Whatever the next stage of the island’s energy journey, Tilley has made a big impact on a small island.
The first recorded use of a water mill on the River Lune in Halton, near Lancaster, was in the thirteenth century. At the height of the industrial revolution there were six water wheels and two electrical turbines generating power for the local textile mills. But by the end of the Second World War energy generation had declined to the point there were no turbines left operating on the river. Around seven years ago, members of the local community were looking to extend the village hall and because of rising energy prices, wanted to install green energy solutions, such as a ground source heat pump and solar panels, to significantly reduce the cost of heating the building. At the same time, there was also a renewed awareness of the history of energy generation from the river which led retired airline pilot and parish councillor Brian Jefferson, who had lived in the village for thirty years, along with a group of like-minded people, to begin exploring the possibilities of developing a cutting edge hydro-electric scheme on the river. The rapid development of the project was helped by the happy coincidence that a professional electrical engineer, who had worked on energy projects around the world, and a civil engineer, experienced in developing large scale water schemes, also lived in the village. The first steps towards building what would become one of the largest community hydro schemes in the country had been taken. European funding allowed feasibility studies to progress in 2010. There was support from the local community but a series of objections from anglers opposed to how the project could affect salmon stocks in the river. Following negotiations with the angling community and the Environment Agency and the lobbying of MPs and Ministers and with the agreed construction of a fish pass for the salmon, licences for the scheme were granted and work on building the two turbines and turbine house started in July 2013. At that time, Halton Lune Hydro (HLH) announced a share capital offer and managed to raise the £1.4 million capital required. Half the amount was raised from the local community with the remainder coming from national investors. Combined local expertise meant HLH could cut costs by project managing the scheme themselves. By December 2014 the turbines had begun to generate electricity in. They are now capable of producing the largest electricity output of any community scheme in England, generating enough energy to power 300 hundred homes. Plus a local, carbon neutral co-operative housing project built along the banks of the Lune has also benefitted from the scheme. All 34 houses energy supply comes directly from the electricity generated significantly reducing their energy bills. Other initiatives included a community group called Halton Carbon Positive being formed to promote educational awareness of energy consumption. This also led to a marked increase in solar panels being installed on houses within the village. HLH have since provided advice to other hydro schemes and a charitable trust has been set up to re-invest profits in the community. Profits have contributed towards a number of local projects including, the scouts, youth sports initiatives, a school allotment and a community play area. Brian said: “The development of the hydro scheme and the housing and a community hall helped build community cohesion in the village. There is still work to do on energy consumption and the need for behavioural change to reduce the amount of energy people in Halton are using but we have come a long way from where the village was ten years ago.”
After more than a century the story of hydro-electricity at Cragside, Northumberland, the former home of English industrialist and philanthropist Sir William Armstrong, has been brought back to life by the National Trust. The 151-year-old house, famously the first in the world to be lit by incandescent bulbs using hydroelectricity, is once again harnessing the power of water to illuminate the house. Cragside was built into the side of a rock-face by William Armstrong, who later became Baron Armstrong of Cragside, in 1863, and he used lakes on his estate to generate electricity through a turbine. In a tribute to his engineering ingenuity, and in a bid to highlight alternative forms of energy, a 56 ft (17-metre) Archimedes screw has been installed in the grounds, using water to produce enough energy to light the 350 bulbs in the house. Cragside conservation manager Andrew Sawyer called the project a very visual demonstration of the way hydropower works, an almost sculptural sight in the landscape. He said: “Lord Armstrong was an exceptional man with an ingenious mind and the prospect of bringing his vision for Cragside into the 21st century is a dream come true. “Hydroelectricity is the world's most widely used form of renewable energy, so we are looking forward to sharing this very special part of its heritage.” The Archimedes screw is a 17m long galvanised turbine weighing several tonnes. Last year, it produced 21,000kwh, providing Cragside with around four per cent of its electricity. “It will also help us meet our target of halving our fossil fuel use and generating 50 per cent of our energy from renewable sources by 2020,” Mr Sawyer explained. Water to power the screw is drawn from Cragside’s Tumbleton lake. As water flows from the lake (the lowest of five on the estate), into the burn below, it passes through spiral blades making the screw turn. The energy is then converted into electricity using a generator. The Grade 1 listed building reopened in 2007 after a total refurbishment and is surrounded by one of Europe's largest rock gardens. The estate, which has 40 miles of footpaths and lakeside walks, features gadgets well ahead of its time such as fire alarm buttons, telephones, a passenger lift and a Turkish bath suite. Cragside was created in 1863 by inventor and landscaper Sir William Armstrong, his wife Lady Margaret Armstrong, and the architect Richard Norman Shaw. Lord Armstrong, a title he received in 1887, had been pushed into a career as a solicitor after leaving school, but had always had an interest in mechanics – he was known for taking apart his toys as a child to find out how they worked. After becoming fascinated by water wheels while out fishing in the Yorkshire countryside he began to work on improved wheel designs in his lunch hour before eventually changing career to become a highly successful civil and mechanical engineer. At the age of 37, Armstrong opened his first factory with the backing of his former employer, Amara Donkin who had become like a father to him in their time working as solicitors. The business was a great success, employing thousands of men locally and turning out hundreds of hydraulic cranes each year, another of Armstrong’s inventions, which revolutionised rail and sea haulage in the British Empire. Armstrong, who had long foreseen that coal was a dirty fuel and a limited resource, now saw every lake and river as an opportunity to be ‘mined’ for power. Aged 53, and now rich from his engineering companies, having switched his talents to the manufacture of field artillery for the battlefields of Crimea, he concentrated on building up Cragside, before developing hydroelectricity there in 1878. Lord Armstrong was by now also an armaments magnate, behind the accurate and practical Armstrong Gun, a breech-loader which re-equipped the Army after the Crimean War. After Lord Armstrong’s death, the family fortune was lost and the house was deserted before being billeted in 1940 as part of the war effort. As a gesture of gratitude from the army, the property was linked up to the national grid when they left. And now its original power source has been returned in a tribute to the genius of Lord Armstrong. Helping to tell the story of Cragside and its unique history, the Archimedes screw is a living monument to hydroelectricity.
Jurgen Huber is part of the superhomes network, a group of over 200 households who have refurbished their homes to the highest standards of energy efficiency. In Jurgen’s case his London home is carbon neutral, using solar power and an air source heat pump he fitted himself to provide all the energy his family of four needs. Jurgen first became interested in renewable energy when nuclear power was promoted as the future energy supply for Germany, where he grew up. For Jurgen, who trained as a furniture restorer, the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 proved to be a turning point and he became involved with the wind power movement and helped develop Windpark Saar near the French border, which was, at the time, Europe’s largest windfarm. After moving to the UK in 1995 and whilst living on a barge, he decided to build his own unique, Bauhaus-inspired, floating, renewably powered home. The zero energy, simply designed and aesthetically pleasing houseboat featured 25m sq of solar panels generating 1.7 Kw of electricity, extensive insulation, and an efficient lynch motor allowing the vessel to travel without any carbon emissions. As his family expanded with two young children, Jurgen decided to move onto dry land, finally berthing in a 1920s terrace house in East Acton. With technological advances in the solar industry making it more affordable to buy solar panels, he took a loan of £12,000 to install 16m square of solar panels on his new house at half the cost of those for the barge. They also gave an increased energy generation of 3.34Kw - significantly more than the Bauhaus barge. The house was fitted with wall and loft insulation, double glazing, electric underfloor heating, water saving devices, low energy lighting and an easy to install DIY air source heat pump. Jurgen also added a conservatory to increase the heat gain in the house. His total energy costs including heating and using an induction cooker are around £50 per month. The house is no longer connected to the gas mains but as well as keeping detailed records of all the changes he has made Jurgen has made sure that all his work is reversible should future owners want to return it to a conventional heating system. Jurgen said: “The combination of very good insulation, energy efficient appliances, a pv system and air source heat pump on a small budget combined with a bit of hard work have made my house carbon neutral. “My family now live in an incredibly energy efficient home but with all the modern conveniences such as a dishwasher and washing machine you’d find in any conventional house . Because we buy any extra energy we need from a small renewable only electricity supplier we live truly carbon neutral. “There are thousands of homes in my area whose roof space could be used for PV which, if exploited, could help clean up London’s air which is having such an impact on people’s health and the environment.” As part of the Superhomes open day, Jurgen is inviting people to see what he’s achieved. Click here for more information.
It has been claimed that Oxfordshire is the county with the greatest concentration of community energy groups in the country. If this is the case, the Low Carbon Hub have been instrumental in helping these groups turn many of their renewable ambitions into reality. Called “one of the most important community energy organisations in the UK”, by the environmentalist Jonathon Porritt , it was launched in 2011 after several communities across the county had begun to develop their own small scale solar renewable projects. The hubs broad mission was to offer support to the increasing range of communities, businesses and schools across Oxfordshire keen to develop their own electricity schemes in which local people could invest in a form of energy that would not only reduce carbon emissions but also generate an income with profits going to support more green energy projects and also other community initiatives. This is also combined with an ongoing project to help engender behavioural change and alleviate fuel poverty. The hub have also worked with local councils across the county and to date helped realise 36 renewable energy projects including solar and hydo-electricity schemes generating over 2MW of electricity. There are now 28 local groups involved and 650 investors who have contributed over £2m. The latest scheme has helped the community of Sandford on Thames develop the largest ever hydro-electricity scheme ever completed on this iconic river, installing three hydro electric turbines that generate enough electricity to power 75 per cent of Sandford’s homes. The hub have helped raise over £1.2m through a community share offer and project managed the construction process, including planning applications and the range of complicated logistical processes to put the three turbines in place. Saskya Huggins, from Oxford, has been working for the hub since it began. The mother of two’s own energy journey began during science classes at school when she learnt about the hockey stick curve showing the sharp increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and how that had risen sharply since the industrial revolution. Following the completion of a science degree and working in international development she took part in a local community project to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint by 10%. This led the group to explore the idea of putting solar panels on public buildings, such as schools, to generate renewable energy, reduce their footprint and generate an income stream that could be reinvested in community action projects. The ball began rolling as a number of community groups around Oxford joined forces. Installing solar panels through local investment on a building, supplying it with cheaper energy whilst also offering financial benefits to the local community became their business model. Saskya said: “We would persuade a local building owner to host panels on their roof; they would get discounted electricity but we would own the panels having raised the money for them through local investment and then some of the surplus income would go back to the local investors but the remainder would be fed back into Oxfordshire communities.” This was the opportunity for local people to take action on a global issue and it became so popular that the group were inundated with requests for advice leaving little time to get on with the business of developing these projects. With an intelligent energy grant from the EU and support from the local council and businesses, the Local Carbon Hub was born. There is a helpdesk for people interested in community energy and grants are made available for low carbon initiatives, The influence of the hub now stretches beyond the county boundary. They share their knowledge with those looking for advice nationally and academics and universities, both in the UK and abroad, interested in how this community business model has developed. Their people’s power station initiative maps the renewables installations across Oxfordshire to show the cumulative effect if people taking action focussing on generation but also want to start energy efficiency mapping. Saskya added: “The impact we can have with carbon savings is a drop in the ocean compared to scale of the issue we are facing. We have to use our experience to inform others if we are going to have a wider impact. It’s all about people working together to achieve a cumulative action.”
Anthony Woolhouse’s interest in leading a more sustainable life and helping to address the impacts of climate change led to him install a ground source heat pump and PV in his home. But his single minded drive didn’t stop there and so Anthony set his mind to finding a site on which to develop a solar farm near his home in Hordle in the New Forest. He eventually found a 12.5 acre former gravel pit, near Lymington, which fitted the bill so set about forming a cooperative called West Solent Solar Co-operative, modelled on those he had seen visiting family in Denmark. Fortunately, the local community contained people with the skills that would prove invaluable to helping Anthony, whose background was in town planning and finance, realise his ambition Anthony explained: “The board of seven people were all local, a couple of engineers including one who used to work for the oil and gas industry and an ex-corporate lawyer. These were the sorts of skills I didn’t have but when put together the complementary skills really gave us what we needed to take the project forward.” Because it was a co-operative, owned by local people, nobody objected to the planning application. They managed to raise the £2.6m, from 453 members and 50 bondholders, in about six weeks to form the first community owned renewables project in Hampshire. Some of the solar farm’s neighbours even invested in the project. From having the vision to linking the 9372 solar panels to the national grid in June 2014 took just 12 months. The site has a capacity of 2.4Mw, enough to supply 650 local homes. The group have planted a hedge around the perimeter of the site to act as a wildlife corridor and sown wildflower seeds over the whole brownfield site to improve the biodiversity. Last year they found some rare bee orchids and have developed a ten-year monitoring programme with support from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Anthony said: “We had a vision to have sheep on the site and someone we knew who had been given three sheep as a wedding present brought them to the site and they do a fantastic job of keeping the grass cut.“ A community grant fund scheduled to start three years after they began producing electricity began after just 18 months as their profits were higher than predicted. One of the projects they have funded is a compostable toilet for a rural nursery school. Anthony said: “We wanted to make a project that the local community would be proud of and I’m pretty sure we’ve got there. Our energy goes to Coop Energy who have an option where customers can choose a local energy supplier to supply their electricity and their members are buying West Solent electricity. They also organise school visits to the site to educate children and key local stakeholders, such as local politicians, about the importance of renewable energy. Anthony is less impressed by the resistance to renewable projects at national and local levels. Planning permission for Navitus Bay, a 970 MW offshore wind farm, six miles off the Dorset coast, that could have supplied energy to 900,000 households, was refused in September 2015. Anthony said: “Renewable energy is seen as something new and dangerous whereas fossil fuels are something people have grown up with and therefore they’re prepared to put up with when you actually have oil spills and carbon emissions from power stations.” The future of community energy also looks less rosy as the grid is over capacity in many places and it’s difficult to find sites from where you can link to it. Anthony tried to develop a project on a site where he wanted to put a 4MW solar project but Scottish and Southern Electric said the maximum development would be just 270Kw which forced him to shelve the whole project. Anthony said: “It’s quite difficult now because the Conservatives have taken most of the subsidies away. They have made it incredibly difficult and the financial conduct authority haven’t helped as they will not register any new co-operatives for renewable energy. “The main thing is that the withdrawal of subsidies was very rapid. We had six months between being pre-accredited for the Feed-In Tariff to having to raise the money and build our solar farm - we did it with three days to spare. The government have gone against renewable energy, effectively stopped onshore wind and taken away the subsidies from solar and left it outside the renewable obligations certificate. “There is a ‘contracts for difference’ which is designed for very large companies and that is something very difficult for community energy to work with and so the sector is left with fairly small rooftop projects. There were a lot of ground-based projects similar to ours, some of which had planning permission, but they can’t find an economic model to make it work.”
Renowned for its brave crews of volunteers who have saved in excess of 140,000 lives over nearly 200 years of service, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is less well known for its role in developing and using renewable technology. Running 237 lifeboat stations across the UK & Republic of Ireland meant that there was a financial incentive for them to explore ways that renewable energy generation could save them money and reduce their carbon emissions. “We have an annual energy bill of about £1.8m, which is a considerable amount of money for any organisation. But our core mission is to save lives, so we’re looking to try and make sure that the money we get from donations is spent as efficiently as possible, so that as much of the money that people donate goes to that purpose.” The programme, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality for electricity and gas by 2024, has so far achieved across the whole estate. In 2016 this has not only earned £84,500 through the Government Feed-in Tariff scheme but also led to savings of £35,900 - vital funds that can be invested back into the organisation. Energy efficiency savings are also a part of the transition as the organisation raises awareness amongst its staff and volunteers of ways they can reduce bills and emissions. RNLI estates engineer Rob Jeans and his team have explored innovative ways of using heat pump technology to draw heat from the ground and sea. A ground or marine source heat pump extracts low-grade heat from the earth or the sea, amplifies it using the natural laws of physics and a little electricity which can be used to heat a lifeboat station. Rob said: “You’re not getting something for nothing, but, for every 1KW you use powering the heat pump, you get 4KW of useable heat out. There’s nothing revolutionary about heat pump technology, but including it as part of a new lifeboat station build was fresh thinking.” In 2007 the team installed its first ground source system at Exmouth Lifeboat Station. Today there are twenty five installations up and running with many more in the pipeline. The RNLI became involved with a group of like-minded organisations from the not-for-profit sector when it joined the Fit For the Future network. This expanding group share knowledge on ways to become more energy efficient and cut their carbon emissions. Victoria said: “Being part of a group like Fit For the Future has proved to be a wonderful forum for ideas. Because many of the members are charities there is no commercial pressure to protect information. So it leads to great honesty. As we’re not for profits, we’re not competitive in the same way that a business might be. So with members like ourselves, the National Trust, Oxfam and the RSPB, it’s a real place where ideas, technologies and our experiences of them and of using them can be aired. We’ve really gained from being a member, and hopefully we are putting a few ideas back in too.” They have been sharing their knowledge with the National Trust which helped them build Britain’s biggest marine source heat pump, supplying a 300-year-old mansion at Plas Newydd on the Anglesey coast. Renewable energy technology requires investment upfront but every £1 invested in renewables generates a return of £2-£3 to front-line services. They are also reducing the fuel bill for the 349-strong fleet. The latest Shannon Class lifeboat is considerably more energy and fuel efficient than many of their older vessels. In the future it’s possible that electric engine technology could become a realistic way to power their fleet. Victoria explained: “A lot of our new thinking, going forward, will need to be about batteries and power storage because we need to hold on to more of the power that we generate from renewables and battery technology will be a big part of that. “Meanwhile, our focus will really be on progressing as far as we can and wasting as little as possible. We’re always seeking to be as energy efficient as possible, looking at renewables, and aiming to be carbon neutral.”
Blickling Hall, home to more than 12,500 precious books including rare first editions of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is also the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife. Alongside such an illustrious past, the estate, which dates from the fifteenth century, has also embraced twenty-first century renewable energy technology. The hall will now be heated entirely by clean, green energy from a heat pump connected to the estate’s picturesque lake. The 200 kW water-source heat pump, which sees three miles of pipes connected in a loop system under the surface of Blickling's lake, extracts enough heat to warm the entire property and help safeguard its priceless literary heritage. Thanks to the programme, the system will save the trust more than £30,000 a year on the 25,572 litres of oil formerly needed to heat the hall. It will also reduce carbon emissions by 69 tonnes a year and help contribute to the trust's target of transferring 50% of its usage over to renewables by 2020. “The delicate nature of our books means a constant ambient temperature is essential for prolonging their life and slowing down the rate of deterioration,” Kenny Grey, Blickling's house steward, said. “The oil fired boilers that we were using, tended to result in temperatures fluctuating; encouraging mould, pests and cracking along the spines of the books.” The lake, which measures 2km at its widest point, supports a diverse ecosystem including carp, pike, reed warblers and great crested grebes. This environmentally-friendly scheme is part of the trusts Renewable Energy Investment (REI) Programme, which was set up in 2013 in partnership with green energy provider Good Energy. Spike Malin, Blickling's premises manager, said: “It was an easy decision to make – not only will it reduce our carbon footprint and save money that we can be put towards conservation projects here at Blickling, it's safer for our wildlife too.”
As part of a colaboration between Stories of Change, the National Trust and other Energy Fortnight Groups, Robin Clegg has been going round the country collecting energy case studies.
Story created by Chris Bonfiglioli, 04 Jul 2017