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Transition Matters

This section is used to list tried or potential practical solutions for individuals and communities across North Cornwall and beyond. To get more details or to arrange a trainig session/ seminar on one of the Solutions, just contact the originator of the message.

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How to power Cornwall on renewables

Here are some useful generalisations about rural parishes where fuel poverty is highest due to lack of mains gas and public transport leading to the need for a car (or cars if both members of a household are in work):

There are 208 rural parishes in Cornwall. Average size is about 3,500 acres.
The average population is about 1,100 living in about 500 dwellings. Most are not on mains gas.
The domestic energy consumption is 4 MWh electricity and 16 MWh for heating/hot water per household. Total is about 2,000 MWh electricity and 8,000 MWh for heating per rural parish.

Wind and solar don't always work at full capacity at the same time. To have sufficient electricity and be able to export a surplus to the grid for use by others supplied by one of the county's 60 sub-stations, may need to double the output of renewable electricity to 4,000 MWh electricity. Renewable heat can be supplied on demand by biomass boilers, anaerobic digestion et al. There is also potential for some hydro not covered here.

Good wind & solar mix would be 3,000 MWh solar and 1,000 MWh of wind.

Solar:

500 dwellings each have 2.5kWp of roof or garden mounted solar PV for 1,250 kWp that would generate 1,250 MWh pa.

Average 15 farms per parish could each install 50kW for 750kWp generating 750 MWh pa.

The remaining solar electricity could be generated by a 1MWp ground-mounted array requiring a 6 acre site shared with sheep:

As an aside, my brother in law farms at Cardinahm and has a field with 200 solar PV panels in one corner of it. His sheep all shelter there in bad weather and because there is less frost and wind he finds that the grass grows better amongst the panels which are in rows set 10m apart than in the rest of the field.

Wind:

The 1,000 MWh of wind-generated electricity can be provided by five E-3120 55kW turbines - one per 650 acres (there is a single turbine of this smallish size at St Mabyn and another just east of Chiverton roundabout on the Perranporth road - Teagles have two more on the St Agnes road just north west of the roundabout).

Alternatively, a single Dingle sized (Bodmin just off the A30) EWT 500kW turbine would generate 1,000 MWh pa on its own.

Biomass boilers:

There are generous grants for replacing oil fired boilers with biomass boilers using logs, wood-chip or wood-pellet. DECC will announce in the summer what Renewable Heat Incentive FITs will be paid from spring 2014 for heat 'deemed' to have been generated by these boilers. Non-domestic boilers that are less than 200kW already get paid RHI FITs of 8.6p/kWh guaranteed and RPI linked for 20 years. The domestic FITs should be at least as generous.

These boilers can either be installed in each house or a community scheme could be installed. For example, a single 199kW wood-pellet boiler that comes in a container 8m x 3.2m x 3m generates 260 MWh of heat pa sufficient for 16 houses costing including plumbing to the houses about £240,000 or £15,000 per house (there would probably be grants to reduce this cost). The wood-pellet would cost £735 per house, about £400 per year cheaper per house than heating oil. The FITs earned by the boiler would be £22,500 in Year 1 (RPI linked for 20 years) worth £1,400 per household. Total saving/benefit would be £1,800 pa per household.

The containersised biomass boilers can be doublestacked so as to take up less space.

And a sloping framework can then be installed for 90 solar PV panels (24kWp.

Similar in size to a squash court.

You might ask where the biomass would come from? A recent PhD study estimated that Cornwall has 30,000 miles of hedgerows which is about 145 miles per rural parish. These have to be trimmed at least once every two or three years. The cuttings could be chipped rather than just left on the hedges as is current practice. This would yield 1,500 oven dried tonnes per year. To this could be added any wood garnered from woodland within the parish. 1,500 odt tonnes of wood-chip or pellet has sufficient energy for about 9,000 MWh, more than enough to meet the parish's heating demand.

Spinetic Energy's wind-fences: For those who oppose conventional wind-turbines, I am Chairman of a start-up company that will be manufacturing wind-fences from late 2014. On windy sites where the prevailing wind is from the SW these can be combined with solar PV panels as shown below:

As a final thought: Farmers harvest food. We eat food to get energy. Food is energy. Therefore farmers harvest energy. Wind, biomass and solar provide farmers with three more ways to harvest energy.

I would be happy to discuss the above ideas with any of the transition groups.

Best wishes - Gage

Gage Williams OBE,
Chief Executive
West Country Renewables Ltd (Reg No 7329220),
Menkee, St Mabyn, Bodmin PL30 3DD,
01208 841378, 07825 018116
'Power to the Parish'