GEAI at SEAI 2017 National Event on Sustainable Energy Communities

SEAI SEC National Event in Athlone IT

On Saturday 25th November 2017 our EVS Volunteer Francesca attended the annual National Event on Sustainable Energy Communities (SECs) organised by SEAI, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, and hosted by Athlone Institute of Technology, Athlone, Co. Roscommon.
The event brought together SEC representatives from all over the country to network with other SEC groups and share personal experiences as well as useful information.
The opening remarks by Julie O’Neill, SEAI Chairperson, celebrated the successful expansion of the Sustainable Energy Community Programme, with 124 SECs currently all around Ireland – this number has doubled during the last twelve months.

The event was structured around several workshops designed using a LEARN – PLAN – DO approach and tailored to meet the needs of SECs at different stages of development.
During the day participants and SEC representatives had the opportunity to get insights from SEAI mentors and guest speakers and share national and international experiences.
Topics of the workshops included Engaging Energy Citizens: Tools and Support; SEAI Citizen Engagement Programmes; Engaging Business Energy Users and lastly, Energy Master Plans and Renewable Energy.

“ThinkEnergy” toolkit

It was particularly interesting to learn about “ThinkEnergy”, a Home Energy Saving Kit developed by Codema aimed at better understanding the energy consumption at household level and cut down energy bills. The kit contains a fridge/freezer thermometer, a temperature and humidity meter, a radiator key, a thermal leak detector, a plug-in energy monitor and a stopwatch in addition to a user-friendly guide with tips and solutions. At the moment the kit is available to borrow free-of-charge in libraries across Dublin City and it will be soon made available in other parts of the country. (Watch the explanatory video here)

 

BMW i3 model (EV)

During the day our Volunteer had also the opportunity to test driving a five-door urban electric BMW i3. “It was really exciting to test it as it was the first time I drove an automatic and electric vehicle” Francesca said adding that “the event has been a fantastic experience to interact with people involved in energy issues at local level and to acknowledge efforts made by SEAI to engage with citizens and promote energy efficiency”.

20th April: the 3 volunteers visited a sustainable farm in Fermanagh

James, a friend of GEAI presented us his farm, a different farm, where you can find a ‘little’ wind turbine, a big wood boiler and plenty of solar panels.

He was one of the first people around to install a wood boiler.

Buying wood is very expensive, that’s why I burn only my own wood that I plant in my fields and sometimes I use wooden waste like pallets”, says James.

He was a lucky though because his family owns some hectares of forest land and the wood that he cut is estimated to last between 5-8 years. Before to be useful, trees should grow up during 20 years minimum, that is the perfect age when the size is enough to burn it but not too large to be difficult to cut. Next step, wood must be dried in a hangar and after to be cut in logs fit for the boiler.

2016-04-20_Farm Palm Wood (2)

The boiler has a 40 kW capacity and in the 10 years of use he only replaced 4 small parts.

We were amazed how huge the boiler was but also his house is big.

The wind turbine

Near to his farm, James decided to construct a small windmill as part of his master degree project. In this place, the wind in sufficient to rotate the palm. Inside the windmill, the system is easy: the rotary movement moves the electric generator. A power cable leads the electricity produced to the James’ house. “I chose this place for my windmill because here is the windier field of my farm. There are no land forms or forest around and it is not so far to my house but not too close to hear it” explains James. The energy produced is controlled by an electricity meter. The turbine is mostly active at night time and he uses the energy to charge his electric car.

James explaining about the wind turbine.

James explaining about the wind turbine.

His car has a 60 miles autonomy, is not much but is good to go to work and back!

But James is very proud of his solar panels. He installed them almost one year before – 16m2  of solar with a 44 kW power and in a sunny day they would produce 3.5 units.

For him are a very good option and even in winter he can get some electricity despite the weather.

We were impressed with all that we saw, but we also understand that you have to have a passion for tinkering to be able to manage and maintain all that, he really like what he does and he is always looking for new ideas. Is a lot of work involved, of course, but Ireland, because of the climate, is a place where you have to be very resourceful and take in consideration many options for heating and electricity if you want to be sustainable and to save some money.

2016-04-20_Farm Palm Wood (11)

Solar panels

The first Code of Practice about retrofitting in Ireland

First week of April held an important event in the energy world and that was the “Energy Show” at the RDS, organized by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

The Energy Theater held a several sessions and one of them was the launch of SR 54 – Overview of the code practice for energy efficient retrorfit of dwellings.

This Standard Recommendation has been developed by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and the National Standards Authority of Ireland in conjunction with the Building Research Establishment to provide guidance on the energy efficient retrofit of dwellings.

As the speakers presented it, it’s meant to be:

  • The bible for retrofit projects;
  • An added value for the house;
  • A template that gives confidence ahead for your projects;
  • A benchmark for architects, homeowners and constructors;
  • A guide to the principles, hazards and problems of retrofitting;
  • Last but not least, help make people more aware.

The drivers of this project:

  • DCLG Social Housing Retrofit
  • SEAI Better Energy Housing
  • SEAI Better Communities
  • NSAI Certifications Schemes

The regulatory drivers are the EU targets of 27% energy saving by 2030 and Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) but also the fuel poverty and EU’s Nearly Zero Energy Building.

The SR 54 is called the first national code of practice and has been praised as being the essential tool where you can find everything you need to know, all in one place and free.

You can download it here.

Local communities to benefit from Energy Efficiency Grants

Minister for Energy Alex White, TD, Wednesday announced €20 million in grant offers for local communities under the 2016 Better Energy Communities scheme.

Media Release
09th December 2015

Minister for Energy Alex White, TD, today (Wednesday) announced €20 million in grant offers for local communities under the 2016 Better Energy Communities scheme. The scheme, which is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), has supported 260 community energy efficiency projects over the last four years. As a result over 12,000 homes and community buildings have received energy efficiency upgrades, supporting several hundred jobs each year.

Minister White said: “This funding will enable the Better Energy Communities programme to continue to reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions, while improving living standards and quality of life for the people and communities it supports. The building upgrades funded under the programme support local construction jobs, demonstrating that lower-carbon communities also reap positive economic and social benefits. The programme has grown year on year as communities work together to bring about real and lasting change in the energy efficiency of their homes, businesses and community buildings. Putting communities in control of their own energy usage will be among the core themes of the energy white paper, which I will publish next week.”

Better Energy Communities 2016 will open for applications in the New Year and potential applicants are being encouraged to start engaging early with community partners for large or small projects. The 2016 programme will see a particular focus on innovative financing models and SEAI is encouraging applications from communities that haven’t previously availed of the scheme. This will be supported by SEAI through the provision of expert technical guidance and assistance to build up skills and capacity at a local level to allow them to develop into a Sustainable Energy Community.

An example of a community that has benefited from the Better Energy Communities programme already is Camphill Community, a charitable trust working with people with intellectual disabilities. Camphill Community teamed up with Glas Energy to make 99 buildings across the public and private sectors more energy efficient. Another community project has seen businesses, not-for-profit organisations and local government unite across Cavan and Monaghan to cut energy waste. The energy services provider, REIL, led an extensive cooperation among a wide range of sectors including chicken producer Manor Farm, commercial poultry farmers, the Monaghan and Cavan County Councils, 44 homes, a school and crèche to improve the energy performance of buildings.

Commenting on the innovation demonstrated in BEC projects John Randles, Head of Delivery with SEAI said, “Better Energy Communities is one of SEAI’s key programmes which brings benefits to private, public and community organisations whilst they collaborate and demonstrate that energy efficient and renewable technologies work. This is often achieved by innovative partnerships and innovative financing and delivery solutions. The projects being delivered are becoming more ambitious as the programme has grown and this is thanks to the outstanding and combined efforts of so many willing partners who are focused on a common goal for their community.”

Mr Randles concluded, “With almost €20 million in grants available in 2016, SEAI would like to see new ways of delivering the projects that can bring the maximum benefit to local areas.”

Further details on the application process for Better Energy Communities 2016, including guidance notes, will shortly be available on http://www.seai.ie.

Renewable Energies – Prosperous Community!

solar-energy-1Manorhamilton is the focus on 24th June as we turn our attention to the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency to give communities better quality of life, generate revenue and create jobs. Taking Manorhamilton as our target, GEAI members and volunteers, together with a local high-level steering group, is looking at how the community can take ownership of their energy future and benefit from a low-carbon economy. “The Manorhamilton community has clearly stated that it does not want fracking under any circumstances. There is an alternative vision – one of clean energy sources and uses that generate local jobs and local revenue; create warmer and healthier homes, and in addition, fight climate change,” said Aedín McLoughlin, GEAI spokesperson. An event is being organised in Manorhamilton on 23rd June that will give local people and others interested an opportunity to look at the possibilities and raise enthusiasm for a prosperous low-carbon future. It will include demonstrations of possible renewable energy sources, discussions on the potential for the town, case studies from other areas and descriptions of ways in which the community can benefit from their own energy resources. More details later.

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