Identifying the right project for your community can be difficult if you have several options. It will ultimately be up to the community to decide on which type of renewable energy project is suitable for them; however, there are a number of funding sources that can be utilised to establish the feasibility of a community project. It is worth noting that when considering the development of a community owned renewable energy project, it does not necessarily have to be located within your community. Looking beyond your geographic boundaries may increase your options considerably.
Take a look at our matrix to help to identify which technologies might be most suited to your community or take a look at the Community Power report to find out more about community renewables generally.
If you have a renewable technology in mind, the Green Homes Network enables you to visit renewable installations and speak to people who are using the renewable technology, you can search online for nearby premises.
ALI Energy can provide advice on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Home Energy Scotland can also provide energy efficiency advice for home owners whilst Resource Efficient Scotland can assist businesses and third sector organisations.
Whichever technology you are considering, remember to investigate issues such as grid connections or planning early in the process so that you know the impact these could have on your project. We have produced a flowchart to help to guide you through the development process.
Renewable energy resources
Identifying what renewable energy resources you have can help to inform what type of project you should take forward. There are a number of freely available sources of information to assist a community to decide on what type of project to develop.
A wind turbine is a device that uses blades to capture wind energy that turns a rotor that powers a generator producing electricity. The most common form of wind turbine design is a horizontal axis turbine which generally has two or three blades that turn to face into or away from the prevailing wind.
Argyll and Bute has a significant wind resource suitable for the installation of wind turbines. With numerous domestic community and commercial scale developments.
Communities looking to install a biomass heating system need to consider their supply of clean processed wood fuel as wet wood fuel can cause biomass boilers to fail. An up to date and comprehensive list of woodfuel suppliers in Argyll and Bute is available from ALIenergy, the Forestry Commission Scotland and from the Carbon Trust
The Carbon Trust has developed an online tool for the sizing of biomass installations. The tool is complex and the operator’s guidance should be read before using the tool. Pellet boilers will require a fuel source imported from outside of Argyll.
Hydroelectric projects utilise the power of water flowing downhill to turn a turbine and create electricity. Hydroelectricity (also referred to as hydro or hydro power) is the oldest form of renewable energy generation in the UK and generates significant amounts of the country’s electricity.
Argyll and Bute has a significant amount of potential hydro thanks to a very high annual rain fall average.With such an abundance of water it should come as no surprise that nearly 70% of the total renewable energy generation in Argyll and Bute comes from hydro.
Solar energy is energy provided by the Sun which can be harnessed to heat water or to generate electricity. There are two kinds of solar panel; solar thermal panels are used to heat water while solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are used to generate electricity. Solar thermal and solar PV panels are usually mounted on top of buildings and provide hot water or electricity (or both) directly to the building, in turn reducing the running costs, but can be ground mounted. Solar panels can operate using only light and so can provide heat or electricity even in adverse weather conditions.
Due to the relatively stable year round temperatures in the atmosphere, a few meters below ground and under a few meters of water, heat can be extracted from air, the earth or water and boosted using a heat pump to supply an under floor heating system or a low temperature radiator system. Providing that the building is well insulated heat pumps can be a cheaper alternative to gas, electric or oil based heating.
Heat pumps still require an electricity source to operate, and so are rarely carbon neutral, but they are considered to be efficient form of heating system.
Anaerobic Digestion is a natural process where plant and animal materials are broken down by micro-organisms in the absence of air. The resultant products comprise of a methane rich gas that can be used to generate heat and power, whilst the plant and animal material residue has the potential to be used as a fertiliser due to it being nutrient rich. The ability to develop anaerobic digestion in Argyll and Bute will depend upon having a suitable supply of organic material.
The movement of the waves in oceans and seas contains significant levels of energy that when harnessed is referred to as wave energy. Wave energy can provide significant amounts of renewable energy, but unlike tidal energy the production of electricity is intermittent and dependent on weather conditions.
Being located on the west coast of Scotland is a great advantage. The movement of the tides contains a great deal of energy commonly referred to as tidal energy. Tidal energy is considered to have considerable potential to provide significant amounts of reliable and predictable energy, however, unlike other forms of renewable energy, tidal technology is considered to be in its infancy.