Category Archives: Green Issues

Community power

Community Power is the way forward shows CES

The 2014 Community Energy Scotland conference held in Edinburgh last November reiterated that point very strongly.

Existing grid constraints unlikely to be resolved quickly means that today more than ever, community energy makes sense.   In the context of Scotland’s extensive fuel poverty which is particularly acute in the islands, ‘community energy can directly impact on high fuel costs’ said John MacDonald of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, as he outlined plans to set up the first Hebridean Energy company supplier.

One particularly inspiring story was told by Alan Hobbett about a group of housing associations  in the Scottish Borders addressing fuel poverty by getting into power generation themselves.

Orkney again showed how they lead the way in community led smart demand side management. ‘We want to use the curtailment system to show that we can bring to the grid 500 kW that will benefit communities,’ said speaker Brian Clegg  from Hoy.

Andy Oliver from Gigha Green Power also presented the innovative Vanadium Redox Flow battery storage system which will be operative in June 2015. (see islands going green)

It was also inspiring to see solidarity with the developing world at work with the presentation of the CES work in Malawi.

CES Support for local energy  economy projects

Nicholas Gubbins, Chief Executive at Community Energy Scotland has pledged his organisation to supporting more local energy economy projects in 2015.

Nicholas Gubbins said ‘Local Energy Economies are about taking local responsibility for energy demand and energy generation, and then taking steps to match the local needs with local energy production opportunities.  In 2015 more communities will want to own their own heat or power generation plants. It is about more than technology. People want to take more local control of their own energy issues and do what is right for their local economy and their precious environments.’

The charity Community Energy Scotland has led the movement for more local ownership and benefit from renewable energy for more than ten years. ‘The Local Energy Economy concept encompasses wise use of energy as well as renewable production. Joining up the thinking around energy efficiency and tackling the high cost of heat for many householders is driving our thinking,’ added Nicholas.

Community Power is about positive action

Community energy activists are not about complaining but rather positive action. They can see the successes of the early community energy projects and want to take a further step, generating the power and heat their communities need in the way their communities want.

See www.communityenergyscotland.org.uk for the 2014 conference papers and the help CES can deliver to communities interested in developing their own energy solutions.

 

Green Energy Mull smashes its initial target of £300 000 shares 

It is almost a year to the day since the first share sale was launched for Mull’s Garmony hydro-scheme, and since then over 200 people have become investors.

The Garmony Hydro scheme, a first for the island, is intended to reduce its carbon footprint by taking advantage of one of the most abundant resources available on Mull – rainfall. Once the scheme is operational Green Energy Mull (GEM) hopes it will generate sufficient electricity to meet the needs of 230 homes on Mull, by harnessing the 320KW ‘run of river‘ hydro electric power on the burn near to the Garmony settlement overlooking the Sound of Mull. The Hydro scheme is on land owned by the Forestry Commission, and by gaining a majority of island votes in support for the scheme last February, GEM was able to lease the land from the  Commission.

As the scheme is progressing well through the construction phase there is still time to become a share holder, but GEM will have to call a halt to investments soon. They have smashed our initial target of raising £330,000.  The totaliser sits today at over £450,000 which is a staggering amount of money. This is a great scheme and one that will help to improve the lives of islanders for many years to come.

As well as generating clean, renewable energy, the scheme will produce income which will benefit Mull and Iona by providing:

  • seedcorn funding for other community renewable energy and energy conservation projects
  • funding for the support provided by the Community Trust to individuals and groups on the island
  • direct funding for a whole range of island groups and events projects (e.g. Village shows, Mull Rally, Village Halls)

Since work commenced on site back in May a, huge amount has happened and the scheme is progressing well. The primary intake is almost complete. This has required much digging and rock breaking and dodging the bad weather. The 800 metre long pipe that will take the water from the intake to the turbine has been delivered, welded together and is now being buried in a trench. Work on the turbine house has now been started and the foundations are being laid. All the contractors and suppliers involved with Garmony Hydro are doing their absolute best, and it is hoped that commissioning will take place during January 2015.

Budget for this project is tight and any additional income that can be raised will mean that GEM do not have to seek additional loan finance if necessary. If you have already invested in GEM, you are more than welcome to invest further. With bank interest rates still so low, this is still a good scheme to be involved with. The weather over the last few weeks has been especially wet and it is grand to think that soon GEM will be able to harness this rain and make some money out of it for the communities of Mull and Iona.

A share Prospectus can be downloaded from the Garmony hydro website.

Community Food Growing

Community food growing 

One of the ambitions of the forthcoming Community Empowerment Bill is to increase the number of communities who take on land with a view to growing food.

Acquiring the land is one thing –although no easy task in itself – but converting land into a successful growing space is something else altogether. A great couple of resources have just been published by the Fed, SAGS, SNH and CSGN. See also the step by step guide to community growing. (thanks to Angus Hardie of Local People leading for this information)

Horshader Community Growing Project receives SURF award

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Horshader’s Community Growing Project was awarded the prestigious 2014 SURF Award for Best Practice in Community Led Regeneration on 2/12/14. The project was praised for its inspiring work by Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs.

  • The Community Growing Project was set up in January 2014 by Horshader Community Development to serve the villages of South Shawbost, Dalbeag, and Dalmore on the West Side of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland.
  • It established an innovative community-led partnership through the Ideas Bank to develop a sustainable project which also demonstrates efficient use of public funding.
  • Horshader Community Development received grant funding from the Climate Challenge Fund and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to erect allotment polytunnels in the area and fund two local jobs.
  • A full time Project Worker is responsible for the growing unit and producing a plan for providing fresh fruit and vegetables which will be distributed through a market garden initiative. A part time Outreach Officer is also be employed and be responsible for organising and delivering a programme of events and activities to encourage the reduction of carbon emissions.
  • The project provides four food-growing polycrubs that will supply year-round fresh fruit and vegetables for the community. It will also provide an accessible covered space for community members to grow their own produce in the form of two allotment tunnels, one in South Shawbost and one in Dalmore.
  • Ordinary polytunnels would not last long in the exposed climate of the island of Lewis. For this reason, polycrubs, made out of recycled feed pipe from salmon farms and polycarbonate sheeting have been sourced from Nortenergy in Shetland where they have withstood gales of up to force 12.

Islands Going Green

Gigha Battery Project 

Gigha Green Power on the community-owned Isle of Gigha have recently commissioned an Enercon E33 turbine to complement their existing three Vestas V27 wind farm. However, due to grid constraints the output of the turbine is restricted to 225kW rather than its designed 330kW output.

Whilst an updated grid connection is in the pipeline for 2015 / 2016, this presented an ideal opportunity to research and prototype an Energy Storage System to release the full potential of the turbine. A consortium led by REDT (Renewable Energy Dynamics Technology Uk Ltd) have been successful in gaining DECC funding for such a project.

The  Vanadium Redox Flow battery is due to start working in June 2015. It provides an innovative solution to an increasingly common problem by allowing a behind the meter flow battery to store any excess power and release this power when the wind drops and the capacity on the grid is available.

Its primary role is to capture currently constrained energy, charging at low cost, discharging at high cost, but it will also allow Gigha to run as closed system when the national grid is not present, by providing a temporary grid for the turbines to run.

This is the first battery of this type to be installed at this size in a working capacity and will provide valuable insight into the technology and its real world implementation.

The community of Gigha will benefit from the additional income received and it is also hoped the the system will be used to research arbitrage models and small scale network support.

For more details on this project, see the presentation by Andy Oliver of Gigha Green Power in the 2014 conference reports on the Community Energy Scotland website.

Eigg’s green grid helps win Nesta’s Big Green Challenge

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The isle of Eigg was the only Scottish finalist out 10 contestants for the £ 1 million prize offered by NESTA’S Big Green Challenge aimed at reducing a community’s carbon footprint, and one of the 3 winners in 2010.  The award-winning Eigg electrification scheme  installed in 2008 gave the islanders a good head start. The Eigg Green grid uses wind, water and sun to power the 40 homes and businesses on the island, with diesel as a back up when required.

To reduce their carbon footprint further, the islanders of Eigg focussed on cutting down their use of high CO2 emitting fossil fuels, like coal & kerosene  (used to heat residents’ homes and water) and diesel (used in the renewable electric grid back-up generators and island vehicles).

They did this by installing pilot solar thermal panels systems on three island homes and a community building, providing access to good quality wood fuel as an alternative to coal/kerosene and reducing the use of island vehicles through provision of an all year-round mini-bus run in part on recycled chip-oil whilst encouraging more walking and cycling by providing a green grant for islanders to buy new bicycles.

Growing more local food helped reduce food miles whilst reducing the amount of waste going into the skip through recycling, reducing and composting, also helped to reduce Eigg’s methane emissions through landfill.

Sharing the knowledge was an important part of the project. To that end, the islanders launched their own Island Going Green website. Thanks to S.I.F. director Frank Corcoran’s inspiring presentation at the European Small Isles Federation (ESIN) AGM in Elba in September 2010,  ESIN unanimously decided to adopt the Islands Going Green Scheme, with Sweden and Finland taking the lead.

Towards Zero Carbon Bute wins the National Energy Globe Awards

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With five years of carbon busting achievements, Fyne Futures’ Towards Zero Carbon Bute was one of the UK entries into the Energy Globe Award. Altogether there were  over 1000 entries from 120 countries.
The inspiring TZCB project reduced the islands emissions by 5,274 tonnes of CO2 and was justly rewarded by the National Energy Globe Award United Kingdom. TZCB did this delivered via recycling waste management, reuse of furniture, growing local produce, raising awareness and promoting behaviour change across a number of themes including low carbon travel initiatives, energy efficiency and renewable technologies.

Energy Globe also offers citizens a free online check to find out the individual energy saving potential. In addition with the online solar tool citizens have the option to find out how to generate and use solar energy – the tool delivers a country-specific result and takes into account the respective sunlight. The sum of the potential energy savings and the potential of solar power generated are documented continuously online on a global counter. From the end of May sustainable projects can be submitted again for Energy Globe Award 2015. All details and the entry form are available for download on www.energyglobe.info.

Fetlar, the eco-friendly island

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Islanders on Fetlar have also begun to take steps to to reduce their use of imported energy and reduce their energy bills. The Fetlar Community Association has already installed a 6kw Wind turbine to reduce both their hall’s heating costs and carbon footprin. The Fetlar Museum Trust has also installed a similar turbine to provide heating in its interpretive facility. As part of the Fetlar Community Development plan, a number of other helpful measures have been identified:

  • reducing Household Energy Consumption: In partnership with the Energy Saving Trust we are aiming to start a project to help people reduce energy consumption in their homes. Energy Saving Trust officers will conduct home visits to complete an initial energy audit and offer advice on energy saving measures. They will also highlight schemes which give householders help with the costs of upgrading insulation and heating systems as well as installation of heat pumps and renewables.
  • Electric Transport: the Community has secured funding to purchase an electric minibus to be  charged by a linked wind turbine. Excess energy would be used to provide heating for the local Primary School and Nursery. This vehicle will provide a much better solution to the transport needs of islanders and replace up to two diesel powered vehicles.
  • Reducing Food Miles: A number of people on the island already grow there own food, but not everyone has suitable space or in some cases any land. The Community is currently looking into a scheme to provide both outdoor and indoor areas for growing. In conjunction with this project it is planned to introduce a community composting scheme to recycle as much food waste as possible.

Tells us about your island and how it is going green!