PITCHES

Between August 2017 and April 2019, PITCHES integrated with the pre-existing Surf ‘n’ Turf and BIG HIT projects in Orkney as a basis for assessing the market potential for renewable hydrogen systems serving remote communities, including those in sub-Saharan Africa, showing that hydrogen-based energy systems have the potential to reduce reliance on imported fuels, reduce carbon emissions, and in future as the technology develops, to reduce energy costs.

The Malawi / Southern Africa element of the PITCHES project explored the replicability of such systems to isolated, off-grid communities in Sub Saharan Africa, by testing configurations of the system, and identifying business models which best suit off-grid communities in developing countries. In the developing world, there are many remote communities with little or no grid access – the Energy Africa campaign estimates that 70% of the Sub-Saharan population is without electricity access, and 50% of businesses there view a lack of reliable power as a major barrier to business. Whilst other energy storage technologies, such as batteries, may be more suitable for the smallest communities, integrated hydrogen systems could have potential to support medium sized communities with hydrogen mini-grids, and also the potential in future to support nascent enterprises and industries through providing local transport fuel.  

In 2018 Mark Hull & Rona Mackay visited Community Energy Malawi (CEM) to work on the PITCHES project with our sister organisation. After visiting CEM’s offices in Lilongwe and meeting the staff there, they embarked on a trip around Malawi with Edgar Bayani (CEM CEO) and Chawazi Gondwe (PITCHES Development Officer) to visit some of the micro-grids in villages across Malawi.   

Watch this video for an overview of CEM’s work in Malawi.

Chikwawa and Sitolo 

In Chikwawa, South of Blantyre, they visited two projects on different scales where solar panels were charging batteries and lights which were then loaned out to businesses and households to provide power and light. In the West they called into Sitolo where CES and CEM are supporting three villages and who were soon to have their micro-grid installed. Electricity is supplied directly to the houses in this instance. 

Kasangazi and two neighbouring villages 

In the North Rona and Mark met Corled Nkosi who developed and hand built the Kasangazi Hydro and supported the creation of two further hydros in nearby villages. Over 2,000 people have benefitted from Corled’s determination and skills.  

Power from the hydro is supplied to Corled’s village on handmade poles with bare copper wires. Although rudimentary the three hydros are life-changing for local villagers, giving the school light in the evenings for pupils to study, electric bulbs in homes to replace candles and oil lamps which have health and safety risks. There is now also supply to a local garage enabling a business to grow and bring much needed economic activity to the area. 

Thank you to Community Energy Malawi for hosting our visit. In return we were able to share our knowledge and practical experience of using hydrogen in Orkney with the CEM team when they came to visit us in 2019. 

Read the full report here

 

CREEL

Canna can!

The Isle of Canna is one of the Small Isles, located off the West Coast to the south of Skye, with a population of under 20. It has no connection to the National Grid, so had previously relied on expensive diesel generators.  

The Canna Renewable Energy and Electrification project involved the construction of a new system based around wind, solar and battery storage which has drastically reduced fuel usage and running costs. Community Energy Scotland had been assisting the community with the development of this project since 2009, and we were commissioned by CREEL to take on the project management of the due diligence and construction phases. We helped secure the final grants for the build, negotiated the contracts and lease, and worked with the contractors to ensure this complex system was installed successfully before the winter storms.  

During the first year of operation, the new system generated over 138MWh of electricity, of which 93% was renewable. This resulted in a 94% reduction in diesel usage, saving 100.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. The generators ran for under 2% of the time (operating less than 3 times per month on average), compared to running 24/7 previously. The success of the project was recognised by the judges at the 2019 Scottish Green Energy Awards, where CREEL took home the 2019 Best Community Project award.  We are thrilled that the SGEA judges recognised the persistence of the community in taking forward such a complex and ambitious project in a very remote location. 

The community secured £983,005 from the Big Lottery Fund and £150,000 from the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), delivered by Local Energy Scotland. An additional £100,000 was awarded from the SSE Highland Sustainable Development Fund, and £50,000 each from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the National Trust for Scotland. 

“The island is exposed to the full force of Atlantic gales and we can finally start to put that to good use! As well as reducing the noise and pollution from the generators the new scheme will give us the capacity to build additional houses here, so that we can increase the number of people who can make their home on this beautiful island” 

Geraldine MacKinnon, CREEL director

We are extremely grateful to our funders: The Big Lottery Fund and their Growing Community Assets Programme; Local Energy Scotland and the Scottish Government for their CARES and Innovation and Infrastructure Fund programmes; SSE and their Highland Sustainable Development Fund; to Highlands and Islands Enterprise; and to the National Trust for Scotland, both for their financial contribution and for the lease of the network which has allowed the project to go ahead. 

Thanks should also go to the principal contractor SSE Contracting, and to their subcontractors; CHAP Ltd (civils); Wind & Sun Ltd (PV and battery/inverter systems); and SD Wind Ltd (turbine supply and installation). 

The people of Canna would also like to thank Community Energy Scotland and Jamie Adam in particular, for project managing this scheme; Jamie kept us on track though all of the complexities involved. 

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