Community energy projects generate energy renewably, at a local level. They involve anything from a community-owned wind turbine to a solar panel on a village shop. In recent years, government policy has highlighted the benefits of this kind of distributed, small-scale energy generation, and various national programmes have sprung up to fund and support specific projects.
This study documented more than 500 community energy projects happening in the UK, far more than researchers expected to find. “There is a huge demand for this,” says project leader Professor Gordon Walker. “It’s no longer a question of convincing the public that small scale renewable energy is a good idea. Whenever money is made available it is snapped up immediately, and the funding schemes have been horribly over-subscribed.”
The vast majority of projects are rural. Walker suggests that some renewable technologies, like wind turbines or biomass heating, are more suited to rural areas, where they can provide a new source of income for farmers. Also rural people are less well integrated into energy infrastructure than urbanites. Many villages are off the gas network, and electricity supplies may be unreliable, so there is more drive towards alternative sources of energy.
But perhaps the rural bias reflects stronger communities in rural areas. Some projects have been set up and run by communities, with shared ownership of the technology, like a co-operatively owned 75 kilowatt wind turbine at Bro Dyfi in Wales. Walker says that although there isn’t a clear recipe for success, good projects are often driven forward by strong local enthusiasts, intent on meeting a local need.
Renewable energy seen as a way to enliven rural economies. For example, a project to install a biomass boiler, heating a school and 19 houses in Wales provided a market for local wood, and a new heating system for houses that had had little investment. There were cultural and technological barriers to overcome. It took a lot of negotiation to persuade householders to share their boiler with other buildings. “Even if a technology is tried and tested in other countries, setting it up in Britain can be a whole new learning process,” say Walker. “It’s important that there is support and guidance available, and funding for that learning process.”
Of course, things aren’t always rosy. There can be serious fractures and disagreements within rural communities, as anyone who listens to The Archers will know. Local energy projects can galvanise the conflict. The research documented a case of resistance against three local farmers who won more than £2.5 million of funding to erect a small wind farm.
According to Walker, distributed energy generation could be a much bigger part of our energy network than is imagined at the moment. But the government needs a stronger vision, and must provide longer-term support to get projects off the ground.
Annika Howard | alfa
Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt
Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences
18.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences