COMMUNITY ENERGY IN GARGRAVE & MALHAMDALE
Solar Power – or how to build our own power station!
Solar energy (light) is one of the most popular resources to be harvested to cut the energy we import from central power stations on the national grid. Although the Sahara desert is a more suitable place to harvest sunshine than the north of England, even the cloudy skies of North Yorkshire can take a chunk out of your heating and electricity bills, as well as reducing CO2 emissions from thermal power stations. There are two solar technologies, solar thermal panels to heat water and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity.
On a sunny summer’s day a solar thermal panel will give you a full cylinder of water, hot enough for a bath – or several showers! Even on a dull wintry day a solar panel will warm up the water in your cylinder enough to reduce the heat load on your central heating system or immersion heater. As domestic scale renewable energy systems go, this should be first choice. The larger the hot water demand, the more saved, therefore they are particularly suitable for B & B’s, hotels, guest houses, hostels and camp sites with high summer demand from sweaty walkers showering off in the evenings.
A family home installation will cost £3,000 – £5,000 depending on size and mounting details. They don’t have to be roof-mounted, see picture. Savings depend on usage and the cost of fuel replaced. You can also qualify for the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for which an Environmental Performance Certificate (EPC) is required.
For more details check out the Energy Saving Trust website.
Photovoltaic (PV) panels convert light into electricity and are brilliant for energising remote villages in Tanzania, but even in Yorkshire we can benefit from the occasional burst of sunshine. A rooftop array will turn your house, school, village hall or barn into a small power station. Electricity produced will offset part of domestic usage, any surplus generated being sold to the grid. At around £1,300 per kW installed (depending on ease of installation) a well sited 7m2 array, will yield approximately 840 kWh of electricity annually. Domestic installations go up to 4kW which, over a year, will generate the equivalent of the annual usage of the average family home. The 20 year feed-in-tariff (FIT), will more than pay back cost. More details on these from the Energy Saving Trust.
Community ownership Of course, not all homes have a large unshaded roof or garden waiting to be covered with solar panels. Solar PV is well suited to scaling up and can be installed anywhere that will get the sun’s rays throughout the day, subject to planning consent and connectivity to the grid. A school, church or village hall with a large south facing roof (+ or – 45O to S ) can host a community owned scheme and benefit directly from electricity generated on site, while the income from the FIT is shared between shareholders and the community. This 7.3kW array on Selkirk Parish Church generates 5,600kWh a year.
Big agri-industrial barns, even the corner of a field, if it’s near a power line, can host a small solar farm, and benefit the owner as well as the community.