One of the benefits of a transnational project such as RECENT, is that it brings together case studies from a wide range of communities. These communities have many differences, however are brought together by the remote, rural nature of their locations and as such have many more similarities than differences. The learning platform will showcase a number of case studies from across each of the five regions giving an insight into areas of best practice, new technologies and challenges which community groups and other stakeholders have overcome in their pursuit of self sustainability.
Within Northern Ireland it has proven difficult to find case studies and communities to work with due to the existing nature of the policy and funding landscape during since the inception of the project where long standing funding initiatives and incentives have been withdrawn or reached the end of their run.
However, some sites have been located and information on the work carried out with these organisations follows below:
Erne Paddlers, Enniskillen
The first site identified was a community led sports club - a kayak and canoe club - located in Enniskilen, County Fermanagh. The club is a small, local organisation that took ownership of an asset formerly owned by the council - a clubhouse located on an island in the town.
The clubhouse has been in situ for a while and has aged. The heating system within is an old fashioned storage heater system. This system works by using electricity to charge a material within the radiators before slowy discharging that heat. In order to heat it in a financially viable way the heating must be done when electricty costs are lowest. Using Economy 7 the heaters can be charged overnight.
However, should the heating be needed during the day the charge for electricity can be massvely prohibitive and it can mean long, cold spells in the building. In order to make up for potential shortfalls in heat electric blow heaters and electric water heaters are in place which are not efficient and can rapidly add cost.
RECENT looked to help to replace this heating system and examined a number of options. Three potential options came to mind immediately - replacing the entire heating system with a biomass system; replacing or supplementing the electric system with Solar PV; or investing in a heat pump for the heating system.
Due to the island location extra difficulties exist - transporting large deliveries of woodchip to the island to feed a biomass boiler is unlikely to be feasible, for example. Between 2012 and 2016 a Renewable Heat Incentive was in place which helped to cover the costs of the installation of heat pumps and biomass boilers. However due to issues with the scheme administration it was withdrawn and without such incentives helping to pay back the initial outlay such an installation on this site was not viable as the upfront costs are high for a club which is not cash rich.
The most likely successful scheme was to replace or supplement the electric with Solar PV which may allow the storage heaters to be charged when the sun was running the panels. Of course when the sun was out this was when the heating was not in as much demand, and in winter when heat demand would be highest the power from the sun would be lowest. On top of this, the Renewables Obligation Certificate scheme has been withdrawn lengthening the payback time and meaning a large upfront payment would be required.
This example shows the difficult place that Northern Ireland finds itself currently due to a lack of policy and incentives in position