Community Small Town News
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Cragside, the return of hydro-electricity
After more than a century the story of hydro-electricity at Cragside, Northumberland, the former home of English industrialist and philanthropist Sir William Armstrong, has been brought back to life by the National Trust.
The 151-year-old house, famously the first in the world to be lit by incandescent bulbs using hydroelectricity, is once again harnessing the power of water to illuminate the house.
In a tribute to his engineering ingenuity and in a bid to highlight alternative forms of energy, a 56 ft Archimedes screw has been installed in the grounds,
using water to produce enough energy to light the 350 bulbs in the house and helping the house meet its target of halving their fossil fuel use and generating 50% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.
“Lord Armstrong was an exceptional man with an ingenious mind and the prospect of bringing his vision for Cragside into the 21st century is a dream come true. Hydroelectricity is the world’s most widely used form of renewable energy, so we are looking forward to sharing this very special part of its heritage.”
— Andrew Sawyer, Cragside conservation manager
Jurgen Huber, a journey to a renewable home
For Jurgen Huber, clean energy is a family affair. After his family expanded to four, he joined the superhomes network which is a group of over 200 households who have refurbished their homes to the highest standards of energy efficiency.
By using solar power and an air source heat pump, he is able to provide all the energy his family needs for a mere £50 per month.
“My family now live in an incredibly energy efficient home but with all the modern conveniences such as a dishwasher and washing machine you’d find in any conventional house.
There are thousands of homes in my area whose roof space could be used for PV which, if exploited, could help clean up London’s air which is having such an impact on people’s health and the environment.”
— Jurgen, Superhomes Network member
Halton, resurrecting their hydro past
A water mill on the River Lune in Halton is nothing new — in fact, the first recorded mill on the river dates back to the thirteenth century.
But after declining in use following the Second World War, members of the local community began looking to the past for inspiration to develop a cutting edge hydro-electric scheme on the river and help combat rising energy prices.
By December 2014, the turbines had begun to generate electricity and they are now capable of generating enough energy to power 300 homes — the largest electricity output of any community scheme in England.
Profits from the project have now contributed towards a number of local projects including, the scouts, youth sports initiatives, a school allotment and a community play area.
“The development of the hydro scheme and the housing and a community hall helped build community cohesion in the village.
There is still work to do on energy consumption and the need for behavioural change to reduce the amount of energy people in Halton are using but we have come a long way from where the village was ten years ago.”
— Brian Jefferson, parish councillor
Tiree, where ‘Tilley’ is the talk of the town
On the small Hebridean island of Tiree if the locals talk about the wind turbine at the north east end of the island they don’t call it a turbine but speak affectionately of Tilley and talk animatedly about how it has benefited their close knit community.
As the 653 inhabitants can attest to, wind is something the island has in plentiful supply, so a turbine appeared to be a good way to create renewable energy and generate an income for the island. Since Tilley started turning seven years ago it has produced enough electricity to power 4649 homes.
The profits from electricity generation — £150,000 per year — have been invested in the community, helping to fund local projects and the upkeep of community facilities.
“There’s not a place you can go on the island without seeing something that has been directly or indirectly benefited from our community turbine which is a testament to how the vision for renewables can filter down to all those on Tiree.
Youngsters can get out and socialise more and it also has a massive impact on the lives of people who could become isolated, such as the elderly.
We also contribute to the employment of an outreach worker and minibus service to take elderly islanders to a lunch club twice a week, to the shops, doctor’s appointments, exercise classes and the bingo.”
— Andy Wright, governance and general manager for the Tiree Community Development Trust
Westmill Wind Farm Co-op, pioneering renewables projects in Oxfordshire
The Westmill Wind Farm Co-op was the first 100% community owned onshore wind farm to be built in the south-east of England. It was the brainchild of Adam Twine, a third generation farmer who had a keen interest in developing renewable energy to help address the issues of climate change whilst also diversifying his farm income.
Combined with the wind farm, the energy from both solar and wind power is the equivalent of reducing CO2 emissions by 7,500 tonnes.
The profits from doing such, over £20,000 per year, help the charity Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust to promote and help fund sustainable energy projects within schools and the community.
“This project grew from within the community and they have a sense of pride and ownership.
It also generates an income for the local community as a percentage of the profits go to a charity set up to promote renewable energy, conservation and to support local community projects.
It has also made a huge difference to the farm income and has enabled me to farm less intensively without the use of use sprays and synthetic fertilizer and develop more permanent pasture.”
— Adam Twine, third generation Oxfordshire farmer
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