Community Renewables

What are Community Renewables?

Goonhavern school wind turbineCommunity Renewables are technologies that can provide alternative locally based sources of electricity, space and hot water heating. This includes many familiar technologies such as solar photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and hydroelectric systems for generating electricity.  It also includes technologies such as solar thermal systems for hot water and ground-source and air-source heat pumps.  Some renewable technologies such as wind turbines can be installed as standalone projects while other technologies such as heat-pumps would normally be connected to a building.

Biomass is also widely considered as a renewable energy source because although burning biomass releases CO2 into the atmosphere CO2 is recaptured during new growth.  Combined Heat and Power or CHP is not strictly a renewable technology but is included here because it provides an effective mechanism for reducing the energy needed to supply heating services and electricity by combining the production of both in a single process and attracts support through the Feed-in Tariff and the Renewable Heat Incentive.


Renewable Technologies Overview

Click on ‘Read more’  for an overview of how each of the renewable technologies work, or scroll down to view simple guides of how the technologies work.

Solar Panels

Photovoltaic panels use special materials which absorb sunlight and produce electricity.  Solar PV prices have dropped significantly over the last three years.  Panels can be mounted on buildings or in free-standing ground based arrays making them a flexible solution for community energy projects.  The amount of generated electricity will depend on the location and orientation of solar panels with sunnier locations producing more power.

Explanations of how solar panels work:


How stuff works

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Wind Turbines

Wind turbines use the power of the wind to turn electric generators which produce electricity.  Turbines come in a wide range of sizes making them well suited for a variety of community energy projects.  Wind turbines and wind farms up to 5MW in size are also eligible for the Feed-in Tariff.

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Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

Combined Heat and Power systems produce both electricity and heat simultaneously.  A variety of fuels can be burnt to provide the heat which also drives a steam or gas powered electricity generator within the CHP unit.  CHP can be used for district heating systems and micro-CHP units are also available for domestic use.  Micro-CHP systems of less than 2 kW are eligible for the Feed-in Tariff.

Further information can also be found here:

CHPA website

CHP info from YouGen

Stirling Engine Wikipedia page

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Hydro systems use water to drive turbines that generate electricity.  Hydropower installations vary in size from large systems employing dams to small systems using just the natural ‘head’ and ‘flow’ in a river system.  As hydropower systems often impact the natural flow of water in a river they frequently require additional approval such as consent from the Environment Agency.  Hydropower systems up to 5MW are eligible for the Feed-in Tariff.

Wikipedia page on hydropower


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Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digestion turns organic matter such as manure or food waste into flammable ‘biogas’ that can be used in a similar way to natural gas to power heating and power generation systems.  Anaerobic Digestion is often well suited to farm settings due to the ready supply of organic waste and is eligible for Feed-in Tariff Income.

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Community Renewables – A Simple Guide for Householders

Solar PV Guide Preview imageSolar Photovoltaic Panels (PV)

Solar PV is a renewable energy technology which can save money on your bills and generate an income through the Feed-in Tariff (FiT)




Wind Power Guide Preview imageWind Turbines

Wind turbines harness the power of the wind to generate electricity; the stronger the wind, the faster the blades turn, producing more electricity.




Micro Hydro Guide Preview imageSmall-scale Hydroelectricity

Hydroelectricity converst the potential energy stored in water held at a height into kinetic energy (or the energy used in movement), turning a turbine to produce electricity.