Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. What is
Formed in February 2007, HICCA is
an association in Histon and Impington for people who are
concerned about climate change, and desire to turn that
concern into action. With over 100 members attending regular
public meetings we encourage efforts to mitigate CO2 emissions
in different areas of village life. HICCA is short for
Histon & Impington Climate Change Action group.
Although our focus is on these two Cambridgeshire villages we
welcome members from all over.
Q. What are the main aims of Project Light
Project Light House aims to
demonstrate how a majority of the existing house stock
within Histon and Impington can become carbon free by
inexpensive and readily available technology, we will 'seed'
the community with 'focus sites' to allow neighbours to
understand that achieving 'carbon neutral' status is neither
difficult nor expensive. Along the way we will educate,
motivate and create the tools needed to expand this initial
CYC funded project to encompass all of Histon and Impington
while laying the groundwork for possible expansion of the
project throughout the UK.
We shall show that: 1) renewable energy
generation is possible on a micro scale; 2) simple systems can
be exploited and leveraged to accomplish larger goals; 3) home
owners can reap substantial savings in energy costs; 4) it is
economically viable on a national scale.
Q. Can you tell me more about Light
Project Light House is simple, innovative
and quick-to-implement. We will install small solar
photo voltaic (PV) systems in up to 50 homes which will
become 'focus sites' for the neighbourhood. The sun's
energy will be captured by two solar panels and fed to a set
of batteries where the power will be stored, then converted
when needed into normal 240V current for house
lighting. There is no house re-wiring required and no
difference in the quality of lighting when compared to normal
grid supplied power. The system requires no
routine maintenance and there is provision for simply
reverting back to 'grid' power during rare periods of
extreme cloudiness. And, as of April 2008, no planning
permission is required for the installation of these solar
panels. All lighting within the house is changed to
energy saving lamps at the home owner’s expense prior to
installation of any Project Light House equipment.
Light House also includes:
a complete home energy survey
a baseline analysis of their
electricity use by installing a home energy monitor in each
project household prior to panel installation.
a tutorial session on the use of
monitors to reduce CO2 emissions.
assistance to help home owners switch
to 'green electricity tariffs'
selecting home owners who may be
classified as fuel impoverished
selecting residents who are elderly
contact at regular monthly intervals
to collect energy use data, and feedback on progress,
problems, experiences, ideas and
partnerships with green groups
in other communities.
the development of a local
cadre of installers.
communicating our progress and
results to the community in a monthly column and website
HICCA will continue and intensify it's
awareness raising and motivation programmes to lay the
groundwork for community wide adoption of the programme.
Q. Has the Project Light House concept and
equipment been tested? Are there any regulatory hurdles
A pilot installation demonstrating the
feasibility of using solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has
been in operation since March 2008 powering all of the lights
in our test home. A wireless home electricity monitor
keeps track of both off-grid power generated by the
solar panels and normal power from the national
grid. All components of the system are available
off-the-shelf from a number of manufacturers which makes
procurement fast and competitive. Regulatory delays have
been eliminated by the government's removal of the need
to obtain local planning permission for the installation of
solar PV panels. A survey at a March 2008 HICCA public meeting
resulted in 35 home owners in Histon and Impington indicating
their interest in participating in a renewable energy project
like 'Light House'.
This project is feasible and it can be
Q. Will the equipment work after the
initial 3 year project?
The systems proposed have a 25 year
design life requiring little, if any, maintenance. Since
they are built with off-the-shelf components they may be
expanded or adapted to meet future home owner
requirements. Funds for minor maintenance (such as
battery replacement) and expansion of the basic system shall
come from electricity cost savings accrued by homeowners.
Q. How Much CO2 will be
We expect to directly save a
minimum of 600 - 813 kg CO2 per site, or a total of 30-40
tonnes/year for all 50 sites in Phase I of the project.
However, using other conservation methods and using
recommendations published by the United Nations we will
implement steps to become carbon neutral.
Details of this part of the programme will be forthcoming in
August 2008. Please check back.
Q. How does your CO2 savings compare to
Wind farms operate at a yearly CO2
payback rate of about 13.6 kg CO2 per £ spent. Project
Light House (CYC's Phase I) will payback at the rate of 13.55
kg/£ or 99.3% of that produced by a commercial wind
farm. During Phase II that payback number is expected to
reach approximately 150% compared to wind farms! That
makes Light House a very good value and one that can be
implemented very quickly.
Q. How long does it take to install Light
It can take less than a day depending
on the siting of the solar panels.
Q. Will Homeowners save
The savings to the home owner amounts
to £117 per year if the system is amortized over 25
years. That number is based on current electricity prices
which are bound to increase substantially in coming months and
years. Therefore, the annual cost savings using Light House
equipment will most likely be much greater.
that savings were used to buy carbon offsets, it would
'save' another 9.08 tonnes CO2/yr per site. Thus, the
total carbon savings per average UK home would exceed the CO2
it generates by 2.84 tonnes/year making it CARBON
Q. Will Project Light House make a real
difference to global warming?
Project Light House is a local project
with a global vision. It puts into place the mechanisms
to change people’s belief that a small group of people can do
little to change the world. Indeed, paraphrasing
Margaret Mead, the only thing that has ever changed the world
are the actions of small groups of thoughtful, committed
people. We invite everyone to be part of this project
and help us become a beacon of change. In the decades
ahead, each and every resident will be able to look back
with pride and say: “We accepted the challenge; we made a
difference; we helped to change the world.”
Q. Will it
Work In WINTER?
On average, the Light House solar
panels will collect enough power to light a home in
winter based on NASA weather data. We realise there will
be times when extended cloudiness may limit the amount of
power available. If this happens the homeowner can
flip a switch and draw power from the national grid.
During spring, summer and autumn there will be excess power
available that can be used for other purposes - charging
mobile phones, running a laptop computer, etc.
Q. Why can't I
power my entire home with Light House?
We limited the
capacity of the system to make it as inexpensive as possible
in order to reach the maximum number of homes. We think
the current 'trend' of installing large arrays of solar
PV panels on roofs to meet every possible electric demand in a
home is wasteful and far too expensive. The notion that
you can make money by selling any excess to the electric power
companies is based on false assumptions. At present the
amount you are paid is miniscule compared to the cost of
buying that same power back. We've chosen to provide an
optimised system which provides just enough power to do the
job of lighting your house without being wasteful.
Q. Can I add
more solar panels to the Light House system?
Yes. The system can be upgraded with a
variety options including more panels and larger capacity
Q. Why does Light House
cost so little?
It is fashionable for Solar PV systems
to cost £25-50,000. This simply isn't practical for the
average homeowner and it encourages energy waste. Light
House provides 'just enough' power to light your home in the
cloudiest months of the year.
Q. What happens
after the 3 year programme is over?
The Light House system has a
design life of 25 years, so it will continue working long
after the programme finishes! The equipment remains the
property of EEDA, or HICCA, but we are seeking
arrangements to allow you to own the equipment outright.
Q. Do I have
to replace batteries?
Battery life is approximately 10 years
under normal conditions. You will need to replace them
at least once during the 25 year lifespan of the
equipment. However, the batteries are relatively
inexpensive and you'll have saved many times their cost over
Q. How much room is needed
Very little. The solar panels
will cover and area of about 1.5 square metres. The other
equipment should be located close to your electrical consumer
unit which contain your home's circuit breakers. The
space required is approximately the same as two ordinary
bathroom medicine cabinets. It can be wall or floor
Q. How does the
energy monitor work?
A small sensor is clipped around your
electric supply cable. It then sends data on energy use
to the Energy Monitor which displays current power usage and
also calculates the annual cost. The monitors also store
data which can be downloaded into a computer for detailed
analysis. Having a constant readout of the amount of
power used and money spent is a very powerful reminder to cut
Q. What are 'remote sockets' and how do they
cut 'StandBy' power?
We hear a lot of talk about stand-by
power used by TV's, Stereos, DVD players, mobile phone
chargers and the like.
Q. How can I sign up for Project Light
Q. What do I need to do to be eligible for
a Light House system?
Contact us for specific details.
The main requirement is having a clear, shadow free view of
the sun and a willingness to talk to your neighbours and show
them how your new lighting system works.
Q. I live in
another village. Can I participate in
We plan to make 10 Light House systems
available to homeowners outside of the immediate Histon -
Impington area. The idea is to help promote the project
with a ready focal point when it enters Phase II.
If you are interested in participating please contact us.
Q. What will you do in the home survey?
We will be working
with Energy Saving Trust to conduct a thorough survey of
your energy needs and make suggestions how you can save money
and energy. EST has access to a broad spectrum of
grant schemes which may be available to you.
Q. Can I buy
Light House equipment without being part of the Light House
That option will probably be
available. Contact us for details.
Q. How do I become carbon
Watch this space! (September