Making the decision to install a renewable energy scheme independently can be daunting. The planning process and potential time, cost and complexity of a project might seem overwhelming. Yet the rewards can be significant – in terms of cutting your energy costs, creating a new income stream by selling excess power and by reducing your carbon footprint.
A major Scottish Renewables conference this week (21 November) aims to explain the benefits of independent, on-site renewable generation, as well as the pitfalls and how to overcome them, using real-life case studies of those who have been there and done it.
Stephanie Clark, Policy Officer at Scottish Renewables (pictured) says that, though it can seem daunting when a project is started it’s worth it in the end.
“On-site renewables covers a range of different developers – landowners and farmers, home-owners and communities, businesses and public bodies – and a variety of technologies. Onshore wind is the dominant player, but biomass, biofuel, hydro, solar PV and solar thermal can also be attractive options.
The sector is growing fast across Great Britain: the Energy Entrepreneur 2013 report, by SmartestEnergy, showed the number of commercial-scale independent generation projects increased by 24% during 2012 to stand at 2,011 separate projects, generating £768 million worth of electricity per year.
In Scotland, the value is around £192m, almost 25% of the total, with the Highlands and Islands being the most active region for community schemes.
The biggest growth across Britain was in larger farm-based schemes, with a 74% increase to 347 projects as farmers look for new income streams.There are many different people wanting to explore on-site renewables – and we need to make it easier for them.
That’s why this week’s Scottish Renewables conference has practical examples covering a range of technologies – including Neil Butler of Perthshire ice cream maker Stewart Tower Dairy, who will go through the whole process of installing wind turbines, from initial concept to installation.
The emphasis is very much on ‘How do I do it?’. The planning process can be a big barrier to wind power applications in particular and the conference aims to explain and de-mystify the process, while also stressing that renewable energy applications can (and do) take time, and that patience will be necessary.
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) will lead a session on hydro power, again explaining the practical considerations of whether a river is suitable for a scheme – and detailing the preparatory work needed before moving forward.
There are many different people wanting to explore on-site renewables – and we need to make it easier for them.
Another focus will be telling would-be renewable developers to understand the need to work with experienced consultants and contractors with a proven track record. For example, more businesses are installing biomass boilers due to the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the sector is likely to see further growth as the RHI is extended to the domestic market. There will be advice on this – and on wider issues like the Micro-generation Certification Scheme, which is necessary to sell power into the grid.
Policy concepts in renewable energy can be challenging for the newcomer, but it is important to have a degree of understanding. Clear information is very important, and straightforward advice will be given in areas like Power Purchase Agreements and Feed-in Tariffs. The Energy Saving Trust Scotland has some excellent, clear information on its website.
Face-to-face advice is also hugely important – for landowners and farmers, businesses, public bodies and home-owners and community groups who want to raise funds to improve local amenities. Again, practical advice will be given on finding the right people to talk to.
Small-scale energy entrepreneurs are already making a real difference – the independent sector now accounts for 12 per cent of overall renewable generation. We look forward to welcoming those looking to join their ranks to the event – and helping them to move forward.
The Scottish Renewables’ On-Site Renewables Exhibition & Workshops is being held at Perth Concert Hall on 21 November, sponsored by Smartest Energy.