A book looking at the role of community renewable energy projects in the UK. It examines the history of community renewable projects and the different types of project that have been successful and unsuccessful.
Solar photovoltaic capacity (PV) will soon match and even overtake nuclear energy’s global capacity, according to new US research. High demand means PV could even become the globe’s dominant energy source by 2050. By the end of 2017, solar power plants around the world are predicted to have an installed capacity of 390GW, according to estimates by Greentech Media. That is just shy of the 391.5GW of nuclear capacity currently in operation. GTM’s research shows that, for the very first time, solar and nuclear capacity will be on equal footing and demand in China could even push photovoltaics beyond atomic capacity by year’s end.
More than 70 per cent of the countries in the world – including the UK, US, China and other major economies – could run entirely on energy created by wind, water and solar by 2050, according to a roadmap developed by scientists. And they pointed out that doing so would not only mean the world would avoid dangerous global warming, but also prevent millions of premature deaths a year and create about 24 million more jobs than were lost. One of the scientists said the social benefits of following their roadmap were so “enormous” and essentially cost free that human society should “accelerate the transition to wind, water and solar as fast as possible”. Rooftop solar panels and major solar power plants; offshore and onshore wind turbines; wave, hydroelectric and tidal schemes; and geothermal energy would also be used to replace fossil fuels to generate electricity, power vehicles and heat homes. The UK is about to publish its own Emissions Reduction Plan, which is supposed to set out how Britain will meet its international commitment in the fight against climate change – to cut emissions by 57 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. While the UK has been making good progress on decarbonising electricity generation, the transport and domestic heating sectors remain problematic. As part of its attempts to improve air quality, the Government has announced it will ban the sale of new fossil fuel-powered vehicles in 2040. It remains to be seen how radical it will be in encouraging the switch from gas-central heating to low or zero-carbon methods. Writing in the journal Joule, a team of researchers led by Professor Mark Jacobson, of Stanford University in the US, warned the stakes were high
Despite its modest size, there are hopes that the £500,000 Rural Energy Challenge Fund will have a significant impact on local economies. Typical projects the fund could support include solar and storage systems to provide heat and power for dairy farm operations, or to help a group of tourism businesses join forces to reduce energy costs during the summer peak season. The launch of the fund, part of the Community & Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) administered for the Scottish Government by Local Energy Scotland, comes at a time of increasing focus on the potential for communities to have much greater involvement in energy production. After decades of being dominated by large, fossil-fuel power stations, the nature of energy generation in the UK is changing, with many more, smaller, decentralised and low-carbon projects sited closer to demand. A smarter and more flexible energy system is also rapidly developing helped by progress in areas such as battery storage. Against that backdrop, the Scottish Government’s draft energy strategy published in January has lofty ambitions for more local generation. It includes a target of at least 1 gigawatt (GW) of community and locally-owned energy generation by 2020, and 2GW by 2030. Scotland’s business, innovation and energy minister Paul Wheelhouse argues the new fund – restricted to small enterprises including landowners, farmers, colleges or social enterprises in rural areas with fewer than 3,000 people – ties in with the Scottish Government’s aims of giving local communities ownership and greater control of energy production. The CARES scheme was set up by the Scottish Government to encourage local and community ownership of renewable energy across Scotland. A loan fund established in 2011 provides financial help for projects which offer significant community engagement and benefit. A previous “challenge” funding scheme under CARES, the Local Energy Challenge Fund, was launched in 2014 and currently supports a number of large-scale low carbon demonstrator projects. Projects backed include Edinburgh and East Lothian-based Eastheat, set up to develop and implement local solutions to addressing fuel poverty designed around the use of innovative heat batteries. Led by Macmerry-based battery technology firm Sunamp, partners in the project include the Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association and East Lothian Housing Association. Some 1,000 solar panels are being installed on properties and hundreds of homes are being fitted with batteries designed to store excess electricity as heat which can later deliver hot water on demand.
Residents of a social housing complex in Brooklyn, New York, can’t stop another tempest like Superstorm Sandy from crashing through their city, but they can feel secure that it won’t cause a power cut. In June, the 625-unit Marcus Garvey Village cut the ribbon on its very own microgrid, a localised network of electricity production and control. Rooftop solar panels produce clean power when the sun is up; a fuel cell takes in natural gas and churns out a steady current all day; when it’s more valuable to save the electricity for later, the largest lithium-ion battery system on New York City’s grid does just that. These contraptions – which cost $4m (£3m) to install – reduce the community’s monthly power bill by 10% to 20%. “It helps keep the housing cost affordable,” said Doug Staker, co-founder of Demand Energy, the company that developed and operates the microgrid. Italian utility Enel acquired Demand Energy earlier this year.