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.
Lurking in darkness under our city’s streets is a silent and growing threat to human health. Cooking fats and grease tipped down the sink in homes and businesses are mixing with solids in our sewers and forming giant lumps of solid fat, sometimes the size of cars, sometimes hundreds of metres long. They cause a media frenzy when photos of them appear online, but in their most extreme form, ‘fatbergs’ can damage or block or sewers, causing serious disruption. “Annually, there are around 366,000 sewer blockages in the UK”. “Eight times every hour, a Thames Water customer suffers a blockage caused by sewer abuse. As well as being costly in terms of money, there is also a human cost of these fatbergs, as we often have to close a road to dig down and clear them, often causing delays and inconveniences.” As destructive as they are, utility companies are beginning to take advantage of some surprising opportunities to be found by reprocessing fatbergs. At a site on England’s North-west coast, Argent Energy has started turning fatbergs from wastewater facilities around the country into a biodiesel. In a simplified version of the process the untreated fats, oils and greases – FOG – arrives at the plant, gets heated to separate oil and grease, has excess solids removed and becomes biodiesel with the addition of a few chemicals, polished off with distillation.
A shopping centre in Leeds is now home to the largest solar installation of its kind in the UK, thanks to a partnership between its owners Landsec and clean energy consultancy Syzygy. The two firms teamed up to install 2,900 solar PV panels on the roof of the White Rose shopping centre in Leeds to create the largest solar installation at a retail site in the UK. Unveiled today, the system is expected to meet almost 40 per cent of the shopping centre’s daytime electricity demand in the mall areas. It will also save 250 tonnes of carbon emissions each year for Landsec – the property giant formerly known as Land Securities – the equivalent of more than half a million miles of passenger car emissions.
Installing solar and storage technologies into homes could save them as much as £600 each year on their fuel bills, a new study has found. The report, released by Swansea University’s Specific Innovation and Knowledge Centre, claims that an integrated system comprising solar PV roof installations, battery storage and solar heat collection technology on south-facing walls could cut energy consumption by more than 60%.
Arsenal Football Club’s 60,000-seater stadium in North London has become the first Premier League stadium to source 100% of its electricity needs from renewables, after the club extended its supplier deal with Octopus Energy.
Mongoose Energy has claimed to have completed the UK’s “largest ever” community energy deal by financing a 15MW solar-plus-storage project. The community energy specialist has completed the financing of Anesco’s Drayton Manor solar farm, based near Stratford-Upon-Avon, which comprises three separate arrays backed by revenue streams including feed-in tariffs and ROCs. All three arrays have had battery systems retrofitted. Two 1MVA/1.2MWh batteries and one 800kVa/1.1MWh battery have been installed by Anesco to complement the solar generation. Mongoose said the new financing deal would deliver nearly £5 million in local community benefits over its 20-year lifetime. The new deal takes Mongoose Energy’s solar portfolio to 80MW, and the supplier’s chief executive Mark Kenber insisted community energy remained “alive and kicking” in the UK.