Campbell & Kennedy has been awarded a contract to design and install over 400kWp of solar on schools and the offices of the Scottish Borders Council. Eleven schools will see solar arrays installed on their premises ranging from 3.85kWp at Gordon Primary School in Berwickshire up to a 48.6kWp system at Hawick High School. Councillor Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council’s energy efficiency champion, said: “We are committed to being an environmentally friendly organisation and are currently delivering our services with a considerably smaller carbon footprint. “The council is already leading the way with a number of major energy saving projects around street lighting, electric vehicles and energy use in the community, and this solar panel scheme at 12 council properties will provide further benefits to the local environment.”
North Ayrshire Council has approved a plan to install rooftop solar on up to 500 properties in its housing stock to save residents up to £115 within the first year. The council’s cabinet approved the plan as part of its Environmental Sustainability & Climate Change Strategy and its strategy to tackle fuel poverty. Cabinet member for place, councillor Jim Montgomerie, said: “We know that many our tenants struggle to make ends meet and rising energy prices place so much pressure on families, particularly those on low incomes. “As well as helping some of our lowest-income residents, this programme also makes a big environmental statement. We are continually looking at ways we can reduce our carbon footprint, and the solar panel programme is expected to generate an equivalent saving of 6,400 tonnes of carbon over 20 years.” An initial consultation on the £1.6 million solar panel initiative identified 1,100 council properties in North Ayrshire which could benefit from the installations. The council will now contact these homes again to gauge their interest, with additional properties considered for inclusion on a first-come, first-served basis up to a limit of 500 installations.
A 1MW subsidy-free solar farm being built by Cranfield University is nearing completion after construction, led by RenEnergy, began last month. The project is fully-funded by the university in Bedfordshire, which secured a £1.6 million loan from public sector funder Salix Finance to put towards the project as well as an LED rollout programme. The university had originally looked to build the site prior to the feed-in tariff cuts in 2015 but was not ready when these were enacted.
Residents of the Isle of Canna off the west coast of Scotland have secured £1.3m to largely ditch their diesel power generators in favour of a new community-owned renewable electricity system based on solar PV, wind, and battery storage technologies in a bid to cut fuel usage and costs. Construction of the off-grid renewable energy system is due to start next month and is expected to take around seven months to complete, after which profits from the power generated will be used to cover operation and maintenance costs, and reduce bills for local homes and businesses. The existing diesel generators will continue to be leased to islanders, but it is hoped that upwards of 90 per cent of their electricity needs will be met by the PV panels and six small onshore wind turbines being built on the island. The community has established its own enterprise – Canna Renewable Energy and Electrification Ltd (CREEL) – to own and operate the new equipment.
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority will today launch a new £15m loan programme designed to make it easier for property and infrastructure developers to incorporate renewables as part of their projects. Backed with funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the Greater Manchester Low Carbon Fund will offer loans to fund projects that would not attract traditionally commercial finance due to the relatively new technology involved, or projects that would be improved through the fund’s expertise. The loans will then be repaid over a 15 year period with the proceeds then recycled into further green projects across the region. The aim is for the fund, which will be managed by property specialists GVA, to complement the existing Greater Manchester European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) fund, which provides grant funding for support early stage renewables and energy efficiency projects, such as street lighting upgrades. Under the new arrangements, the ELENA Fund is able to provide assistance for upfront project costs with the Low Carbon Fund following on with commercial investment, the authority said. Example projects include wind turbines that are dedicated to a development, projects generating energy from waste, or Biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems that generate electricity and heat powered by renewable woodchips.
Highland Council is to invest £2.3 million in building a range of small solar farms across its estate after agreeing on a scheme that aims to make more than £4 million for the council over 20 years. The council’s current plans would see 2.5MW of solar built, comprising ten 250kWp arrays built on land that according to Councillor Bob Lobban, chairman of the authority’s redesign board, could not be used for anything else. A total of 37 locations throughout the council estate have been identified, with the final sites yet to be selected. This number could rise after consultations are carried out with residents to decide where the new solar arrays could be located. Instead of a power purchase agreement model, which would not require the council to put up any upfront capital to pay for the new sites, Highland Council will enter into long term borrowing agreements with ‘cheap’ interest rates in order to make a profit. With these funds easily accessible, installations will be dictated by how long the site selection process takes, but Lobban expects the first sites to be completed before the end of 2018, with net profits to be achieved each year of the 20-year lifespan of the panels.
Western Isles householders currently paying above average prices for electricity can now benefit from fairer tariffs – and help bring money back into the community too – thanks to a community-led scheme being launched today (Tuesday), Hebrides Energy, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company led by Tighean Innse Gall, Hebridean Housing Partnership, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, The Stornoway Trust and Community Energy Scotland, is teaming up with Scottish “Fairer Energy” supplier Our Power to promote a range of new Hebridean Tariffs to the local market. It is hoped that the savings offered will represent a key step in the crusade to curb fuel poverty, which now sees nearly 60 percent of Island homes struggling to afford energy bills – one of the UK’s worst hit zones. Any profits will be plied back into the company’s mission to tackle fuel poverty. Hebrides Energy Chairman Carola Bell said: “This is a first-of its kind venture for the islands and the team at Hebrides Energy has worked long and hard to get this far. It’s a great pleasure to be working with Our Power, with their proven track record and positive, community-centred ethos, and we hope that many islanders can benefit from the new tariffs on offer.
The Outer Hebrides are “on the brink of major renewables energy developments,” Western Isles Council has said. Council leader Roddie Mackay said at a seminar yesterday that renewables projects offered “major potential for huge investment”. He added: “The stakes are huge and our communities should be working together to ensure that we deliver maximum community benefit from the interconnector and the vast renewable resources we have here in the islands. “This is about the whole of the Western Isles benefiting from our resources and our partnership working, and the council is committed to supporting all renewables developments, including community energy. “The UK Government recently confirmed that remote island wind will be an eligible technology to compete in the 2019 Contracts for Difference auction – and it was made very clear from today’s seminar that the Lewis Wind Power and Ushinish developments are the only projects which have the planning consents and the grid connection offer to be able to compete in that auction and deliver transformational opportunities and benefits for our communities.”
The economics of solar-and-storage in the UK are being proven, Anesco has said. Speaking at the Energy Storage Summit in London, Steve Shine, Anesco’s chairman, explained that while the company had not proven the case for subsidy-free solar, the business model for its hybrid Clay Hill project was panning out. When Clay Hill was unveiled as the UK’s first subsidy-free solar project last summer it captured the attention of industry and government officials alike. Energy and climate minister Claire Perry has since used the project’s completion to claim that solar PV is capable of deploying without subsidy support. But Anesco has distanced itself from those specific claims and yesterday Shine insisted that it was not true that the industry has “cracked” subsidy-free solar. Instead, Shine sought to stress the difference between true subsidy-free solar and hybrid projects that combine the generating capacity with battery storage.
Hydrogen is the least talked-about renewable energy but has the greatest potential to replace fossil fuels, both to heat homes and to provide fuel for road transport. The possibility of using hydrogen has been known about for generations, but only in the last two years has it become both practical and financially viable to see it as a large-scale competitor to both gas and oil. Networks of hydrogen filling stations are now being opened in Europe and parts of the US. Batteries for road transport have attracted most of the recent publicity around renewables and have become the focus of many governments with targets for switching away from petrol and diesel, particularly in cities with air pollution problems. But hydrogen has even greater potential because its only emissions are pure water and warm air. What has made hydrogen so attractive is that it can use surplus renewable electricity from wind and solar farms by using electrolysers to produce hydrogen. This is a process of passing an electric current through water and converting it into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen can then be stored. The highly combustible gas can be used as a fuel to drive cars, lorries and trains, be fed into gas pipelines along with natural gas to heat homes, or simply burned to produce electricity when power demand is high. Hydrogen also solves a problem for the renewable energy industry – surplus production when demand is low. The large-scale introduction of both wind and solar power has meant that increasingly, when the wind blows and the sun shines and demand for electricity is low, there is no use for the power. However, if this surplus power is diverted to produce hydrogen that can be stored, then the cost of the valuable gas produced is low. The hydrogen can then be used as a power source when demand is great and sold at a much higher price than the cost of production. One of the pioneers of the process is ITM Power, which believes that hydrogen will become the major fuel for long-distance transport – lorries, trains, buses and cars – while battery-driven vehicles will be for cars on the school run or for local shopping. Already fuel cell cars using hydrogen fuel have a 300-mile range and take less than five minutes to fill up. The company has opened a number of filling stations in the UK, including three in London. ITM Power has teamed up with the oil giant Shell in a venture in Germany to make hydrogen for industrial processes. Among the projects that will make a big difference to emissions from home and office heating is the programme of blending hydrogen with natural gas. In theory, with little modification, the entire gas network could eventually be converted to hydrogen. This would require a massive increase in hydrogen production from renewables, but the growth of wind and solar power in Europe and the US makes this a credible idea.