In the process they’ve not only cut their CO2 emissions by 88 tonnes they have also created a network of community champions who now lead projects and help others get involved.
This is the Reepham Green Team – a social club that meets every couple of months, to chat over a glass of wine, swap tips and develop plans for putting projects into motion.
When the Green Team came together their first task was to give the community a target to focus on. A carbon audit was carried out to pinpoint how much energy the town was using and where.
The results showed that Reepham’s carbon emissions were 48% above the national average. But the audit also highlighted 3 main reasons for this high energy use.
The town has a relatively old housing stock which was badly insulated, high car use due to poor public transport, and many homes were reliant on oil for heating.
The Green Team set about tackling these problem areas. The group insulated over 200 houses, set up a car share club to cut down on car use and started the UK’s first trial of waste vegetable oil as fuel for heating homes. And they haven’t stopped there.
Using their community network Reepham have just rolled out projects across 18 community groups, installing renewable energy in the schools, community halls, a housing trust and the local train station.
Getting the whole community involved has enabled Reepham to start lots of projects, and it’s been great for the community to see the impact of all working together.
Green Team member Jo says, “Its been rewarding because we’ve seen change within the community. The school children have been involved, groups of older people have been involved in improving their insulation and the car club means that all of those who are capable of driving can become members of that and reduce our need for two cars in the family.”
Across such a diverse range of projects, from the schools to the station, feasibility studies were used to identify the best use of technology for thebuilding and type of group that would use it, matched with the funding that could be attached to that project.
As an example of how this was done, at Reepham Housing Trust 8 houses were assessed to see how energy was used in the homes, given how many people lived in the houses and their pattern of use.
The Trust worked in partnership with Saffron Housing Trust, who already had experience of installing renewable technologies to their homes. The Trust’s properties were heated by electric storage heaters and hot water was provided by electric immersion heaters. Also as the tenants were likely to be at home for much of the day their electricity use was higher than average. A good target for the Green Team.
However, the group didn’t have a lot of money to spend on the project, so focused on what was going to give the biggest reduction in CO2 and energy use for the money available. Each house had their existing heating system replaced with an air source heat pump (ASHP) and solar thermal panels that would provide the houses’ heating and hot water. Plus homes were installed with the UK’s first uPVC triple glazing.
During the feasibility phase, the Housing Trust considered using ground source heat pumps for the heating, powered by solar PV on the roof, which may have provided even more efficient heating. As the heating would have been powered using renewable energy, rather than using electricity from the grid – further reducing CO2 emissions and the cost to heat. However, given the budget and lack of space for installation an ASHP was chosen instead of a GSHP, and solar thermal was chosen in place of solar PV as there was not a lot of roof space.
However, the new systems should reduce energy use in the houses by 62%, which is still a fantastic saving! Entity Reepham Green Team is an informal network of members from across 18 community sections, including the primary school, secondary school, council, a housing trust, sports group, rotary club and chamber of commerce. The group meets every couple of months and each area of the community has an appointed Green Champion who leads the work. The Green Team have partnered with Norfolk County Council who administer funds which the group apply for and handle accountancy work on behalf of the various groups.
Across the Green Team’s energy generating projects they expect to generate around £5,500 income from Feed in Tariff payments and electricity exported to the grid. The projects are estimated to save around £20,000 with each of the groups benefiting directly from the income and savings.
As an example, the Housing Trust installations do not generate income but will save around £14,700 a year across the Trust’s 8 homes. The High School which installed solar PV expects to be £3000 better off through savings made from electricity the school will no longer have to purchase, and income from the FiT payments. Plus Benefits Bringing the community together By bringing the Green Team together and putting projects in place the Reepham community has also benefitted.
Jo who is leading the installation of a GSHP in the local church and community hall says the process has pulled people together: “We’ve become more of a community as a result of that. It’s helped to pull us together and that’s one positive as well as reducing our carbon emissions, it’s been quite exciting, it’s been quite fun as well.”
Set up Costs
So far the Reepham Green Team have installed £374,000 of renewable energy technologies across 5 community areas. The Housing Trusts’ ASHP and solar thermal panels cost £56,000 to install, at an average of £7000 per household. Funding Model Reepham has been funded by a variety of grants and industry partners. Most recently the group received funding from the DECC Low Carbon Communities Challenge fund and used this money to apply for match funding from local agencies.
Taking into account savings made in electricity and fuel as well as income from FiT payments, the payback time on Reepham’s 6 renewable energy projects would be around 15 years if they had not received grant funding.
To give an idea of individual projects the Housing Trust project would take around 4 years to pay back. Ongoing Costs Each project manages it’s own ongoing costs, which are dependent on installation type. The below gives an idea of the type of costs associated with the technologies installed across Reepham: Housing Trust: ASHP and Solar Thermal The Air Source Heat Pumps should not need servicing, unless there is a failure with the system.
The cylinder which holds the hot water inside the house should be serviced and safety checked each year, as the cylinder is pressurised – at a cost of about £60-£80 for each property.
The solar thermal systems should require very little maintenance, but the pipe work would benefit from being checked each year for leaks or corrosion.
The cost of maintenance for solar PV panels is low.
Depending on where they are situated, they may need to be cleaned occasionally. It is advisable to have the wiring and system checked occasionally by an electrician and the inverter may need replaced after 10 to 12 years, at a current cost of around £1,200.
Maintenance of biomass boilers is fairly simple and involves de-ashing and cleaning the boiler – every week to four weeks depending on the system. The heat exchanger may need to be cleaned as well. Boilers also require an annual service at a cost of around £250 to £500 depending on the type and size of system.
Set a base line Reepham’s first step was to establish a baseline they could work from. For the Green Team this was the audit they carried out that revealed the 3 areas they needed to target to reduce their high CO2 emissions. The audit was analysed by the University of East Anglia giving the green team data they could work from and see tangible differences.
Start small but create action
Rex who leads the car share club and brought the Green Team together says it’s important to do something that creates action and that people can see and get involved with.
Rex said: “Get the momentum going, get people excited, people get excited if they can see things happening and not just a load of meetings.” The first way that Reepham did this was to distribute thousands of low energy light bulbs. Rex says, “It’s not hard, but it’s action and develops awareness of something happening. Then you can start to develop solutions to the key areas you want to target and start moving on those.”
Whether it’s the insulation project which was rolled out by the Rotary Club or the children in the local school who act as ‘energy spies’ checking up on who’s left on lights and computers, Reepham have involved the whole community to make these projects a success.
The Green Team now plan to use the same model to deliver more projects in the town and share this model with communities across the UK. For example, the Reepham Insulation Project, nicked named CO2 RIP, was implemented by the local Rotary Club and increased the number of homes that were insulated in the town by 100%.
The group did this by:
- Getting respected local people within the community to provide information to residents
- Cutting through red tape to make it as easy as possible for residents to access grants available
- Identifying local suppliers of home insulation and negotiating a discount on their services
Spurred on by the success of their current projects, Reepham are developing the next phase of the insulation project and car club. The aim is to be the first county wide car club in the UK, with 100 cars available for residents to use rather than keeping their own car.
The town also plans to roll out waste vegetable oil heating to 100 homes as a demonstration of how this could be implemented in almost 2 million homes across the UK.
Current contribution to the grid Reepham’s projects will generate around 16,280kWh a year of electricity.
Around 60% of this will be used by the community buildings and 40% exported to the grid, which is enough to power around 2 houses.
You can see energy being generated by the energyshare community on this map. The projects which produce heat, such the Housing Trust and the station’s biomass boiler will generate around 213,000kWh of heat, which is the equivalent to that used to heat about 10 homes.
Key tips for making your own Reepham
Use existing community networks In Reepham the projects have been developed and delivered by grassroots community groups representing the community.
Each project has a Community Champion who is working towards an integrated plan to cut carbon.
The Reepham Green Team investigated a range of technologies and carried out feasibility studies for each targeted building. To give an indication of how this worked, here is an outline of the systems installed in the Housing Trust.
Air source heat pumps outside each house and solar thermal panels on the roof were installed to provide heating that would use less energy and provide more flexibility for residents than the electric storage heaters and immersion hot water tanks originally installed.
The 5kW air source heat pumps work like a fridge in reverse, extracting energy from the air, which is converted to heat and transferred to the heating system inside the house.
Each house had one solar thermal panel installed which heats water using sunlight. Each panel is around 2 square meters in size and will produce about 50% of the hot water needed for each house. Inside each home, storage heaters have been replaced by wet radiators.
The hot water produced by the ASHP and solar thermal panels is fed into the house to heat these radiators and water for use in taps and showers. The ASHP can work in temperatures as low as -15 degrees but will become a lot less efficient as it needs to pump more air through the system to generate heat. This is less efficient as the pump uses electricity, and therefore more energy, to run. In the summer the Housing Trust hope that the majority of hot water will be produced by the solar thermal panels, enabling residents to minimise their use of the ASHP.
Planning and permissions
Planning permission was not needed to install the solar thermal panels which are covered by permitted development.
Residential properties will not always require planning permission for solar installations, due to guidelines of “Permitted Development” which apply in England, Wales and Scotland.
However, there are restrictions on permitted planning which include:
- panels should be sited, so far as is practicable, to minimise the affect on the appearance of the building and amenity of the area
- properties in conservation areas or World Heritage sites may require planning consent, and listed properties may require listed building consent
- panels should project no more than 200mm from the roof or wall surface
The guidelines differ in England, Wales and Scotland, with additional restrictions on the above.
You should always check with your local authority as to whether you need planning. Be aware that some local authorities will also require Building Control consent for installations, so check with your local council.
Non-domestic properties are not yet covered by Permitted Planning and will need to check what permission is required with the local planning authority.
However planning permission was needed for the installation of the ASHP. The main points to take into consideration were the sighting of the pump, which planning stipulated should not be visible from a highway.
But the installers also needed to make sure the units are not too far from the hot water tank as the further the pipes need to travel the more heat will be lost, making the unit less efficient.
Planning also takes into consideration the noise level of the ASHP. For the installation at the Housing Trust the pump was not to have a noise level above 45 decibels at a distance of one metre.
The first units the trust planned to install were 1 decibel above this limit, so they had to source another make of unit. The installers also held an open day with the members of the trust in order to show them all the technology that was planned to be installed, and enable residents to ask questions – which greatly alleviated any concerns they had about new technology being installed.
How to Get Started
Jo, a member of the Green Team says to other communities, “Have a go! But you have to find somebody who will lead that project and who is very, very enthusiastic about it. Which is where Rex has been great and the rest of the community becomes infected, and you start to think about what you are doing and where you can get involved.”