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Cut Your Carbon Campaign



Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. What is HICCA?

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 House?

Project Light House aims to demonstrate how a majority of the existing house stock  within Histon and Impington can become carbon free by 2012.  Using 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 House?

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.

Project 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 and vulnerable

  • contact at regular monthly intervals to collect energy use data, and feedback on progress, problems, experiences, ideas and suggestions.

  • 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 to cross?

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 implemented rapidly.

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 saved?

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 commercial projects?

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 House Equipment?

It can take less than a day depending on the siting of the solar panels. 

Q. Will Homeowners save money?

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.
If 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 NEGATIVE! 

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 batteries.

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 the years.

Q. How much room is needed for equipment?

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 mounted.

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 electricity use.

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 House?

Contact us!

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 the project?

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 project?

That option will probably be available.  Contact us for details.

Q. How do I become carbon neutral, too?

Watch this space!  (September 2008)



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