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December 12, 2007

Communities co-operate on renewables initiative

Five villages in Angus have been involved in a highly innovative collaboration using the latest renewable energy technology to transform their village halls. Their example is inspiring others to think seriously about renewable energy.


Winners of the best community initiative award in this years Green Energy Awards, the Angus Village Halls Renewable Energy Group is a network of communities in rural Tayside that have taken a peer education approach to renewable energy projects.

This is an outstanding example of how communities can learn from each other and develop the capacity to deliver successful and appropriate energy projects.
A spokesperson for the group said: “Everyone who has been involved is delighted to have won this award. It’s great to have a local contribution to public understanding of renewable energy recognised.”

“Ten village halls have worked together over the past five years, supporting one another to examine and understand a wide range of renewable energy options. This shared support has been an essential element in the successful implementation of a series of local syste

The project started when a number of village halls approached Angus Council about their concerns, and as a result Angus Council applied for a Sustainable Action Grant. This led to the formation of the Angus Village Halls’ Renewable Energy Group, and the engagement of a consultant, Hugh Piggot of Scoraig Wind Electric.

Working with local people, Hugh examined 5 halls (Lethnot, Menmuir, Clova, Kilry and Isla) in terms of the halls’ pattern of use, scope for improved insulation, and prospects for renewable energy sources. Plans were drawn up for each hall. In each case there were separate issues that needed to be addressed. For instance, Clova offered great prospects for both wind and water power – but the hall was almost incapable of being insulated. Isla was suited to a small hydro/heat pump scheme, but residents were justifiably careful of using a burn which also serves as a water supply.

In three locations, viable and acceptable schemes were agreed, and costings examined:
• In Menmuir, a local burn was to be used for a pico-electric generator to operate a ground-source heat pump. This ground source heat pump would heat water to 30° C and circulate it under the floor of the hall. This would provide a “free” self-contained underfloor heating system.
• In Lethnot, the hall’s open southerly aspect favoured the use of a Nuaire system within the attic which draws solar warmth out of the roof slates and circulates it.
• In Glenisla, there was the prospect of a joint Council/community wind turbine to power both the primary school and the community hall.
• In Kilry it was decided to install 2 stand-alone wood pellet stoves to provide heating to the building, as well as a 3.5kW photovoltaic array to offset electricity consumption. The stoves are predicted to provide approximately 7,000 kWh of heat, and the PV array approximately 4,000 kWh of electricity. A range of improved insulation measures will also be installed to maximise the efficency of the renewable energy systems installed.
A significant result of this grant was not simply that these proposals for each hall were developed. In addition to the halls being heated, there is now a group of around eight local people who have become extremely knowledgeable about renewable energy and this knowledge is being spread to other community projects – energy evenings, up-take campaigns for free central-heating for older people, further halls becoming involved in heating and design discussions which prioritise renewable energy sources.
The group learned a number of lessons:
• that wind is the solution less often than one might expect
• that small burns with a steep drop offer better prospects and fewer complications than rivers
• that “technical talk” should not be allowed to get in the way of people actually understanding things
• that the whole community needs to be briefed, to ensure that worries do not set in.