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Renewables in Practice

The next round of energy bills are not a pleasant prospect. But some people are acting now to make sure that they keep the fuel bills down for the longer term – or that they generate their own energy and income.

Among the income generators are a growing number of communities around the Highlands and Islands.

The island of Gigha has made a net profit of £80,000 a year from the first two years of its community-owned wind turbines. The islanders are investing some of the money in upgrading housing stock, including energy-efficiency measures. 

You can find information on the web about Gigha’s success from the Energy Saving Trust (wait a few seconds for the pdf file to load), the Gigha community, and Community Energy Scotland.

Steven Watson of Community Energy Scotland knows the Gigha project well, and he spoke about this and other community energy initiatives on the evening of Monday 10 November in Muir of Ord. The venue was the Pavilion at the Black Isle Showground.

Amongst his examples was the island of Eigg, which had been in a situation of having no grid connection and relying on diesel generators. But the island had natural resources of land, wind, sun and water. So now they have a community scheme involving a local grid, photovoltaics, hydro and wind generators.

And he described the range of ways in which Community Energy Scotland can help any community which wants to develop its own energy scheme.

Dave Newman described how he's building his own eco-home in Cromarty. To do it, he's tackled many challenges and worked hard to source the best possible mix of materials and energy sources.

He has a ground source heat pump and solar roof panels, and together they build up a store of heat energy in a water tank. The air in the house is cycled through a heat recovery system, and additional light comes down through a sunlight tube.

There are sash windows – a fine old-fashioned design, produced in double-glazed form with a specially treated wood frame by a specialist company in the US. The plastic-coated roofing, guaranteed for 40 years, come from Scandinavia. 

There is wool insulation throughout, and the whole floor is of Caithness flagstone, with the heat from underground coming up below it

And one of the guiding parameters, he said, has been to do it all within a budget.

Dave showed pictures of his house in the various stages of construction, and provided information about the types of materials and systems he’s used.

You can see more about the project on a website he created for it, www.go-build.org/oldbarns - the 'old barns' in the title being what was originally on the site.

The evening was introduced by Bill Graham, who set the scene with the stark facts about the finite nature of the world’s oil and gas supplies, and the likelihood of a return to rising prices before too long. Bill also spoke of the potential for some innovative thinking in house design, such as heat recovery of underfloor losses and one-way heat flow in walls. These are amongst the various ideas that he's developing in the talks he gives on A Creative Transition.

Venue: The Pavilion, Black Isle Showground, Muir of Ord

Time: 7.30 pm on Monday 10 November






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