Off-Grid in a cold climate – tech spec

A fabulous eco-friendly home , has broken new ground by becoming a home that’s entirely self-sufficient thanks to renewable energies.

Like many of the best ideas, it was necessity that made Russell adopt renewables technology.

Building a new eco-home 400 yards from the mains electricity grid in 2009 left Russell Grogan facing an £18,000 bill to lay power cables and associated infrastructure.

Instead, the canny structural design engineer installed solar panels, solar water heating and, later, a wind turbine and wood-fuelled biomass boiler at his house at Long Rig, near Fyvie, Turriff.

This enabled him to live off-grid 365 days a year, withno connection at all to mains electricity or gas.

The homeowner loves his solar, wind and biomass set-up so much that he’s now keen to share his passion with others thinking of following the same route.

He is part of the Green Homes Network, funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by the Energy Saving Trust, and opened Long Rig to members of the public on Saturday, September 21, to share his experiences and give advice to people thinking of following his example.

The Green Homes Network, the Green Network for Businesses and the Green Network for Social Housing are a collection of more than 800 homes, businesses and social housing projects across Scotland which have renewables or energy efficiency technologies installed, and welcome interested members of the public through their doors to see how they work.

Russell, 60, said: “When we started with renewables, we had very little idea what we were doing.

“It would have been very useful to have a resource like the Green Homes Network, so we could have visited homeowners who had already adopted these technologies to find out about actual costs and savings.

“At the beginning of our build, we were told we would have to pay more than £18,000 to install mains electricity, even if we dug the trench for the cable ourselves!

“Installing renewables has been a great solution, and has meant we’re not only protected from electricity price rises but that we get a payment per unit of electricity generated through the Feed-in Tariffs for generating our own electricity, 47p per unit with the old system, and 16p per unit with the new one.”

The roof of Russell’s home was built to face south, purposefully maximising its exposure to energy-giving daylight.

However Russell’s first solar system (a 180W Schuco) and 1kW Futurenergy wind turbine weren’t quite enough to completely power his home.

This year, though, more advanced technology has meant he hasn’t turned on his back-up generator since April.

The amount of energy being used in Russell’s home is monitored by smart meters, which show the electricity being consumed in pounds and pence as well as kWh.

“The second solar system which we had fitted is so much more advanced than the first one, and much more efficient,” said Russell.

“It has been a revelation, and cost £3,500, whereas the first system cost £9,000 in 2009.

“The inverter, which controls how much power comes into the house through the panels, is also much better at dealing with that power in an efficient way.

“The back-up generator kicks in when our battery levels fall below 40%.

“With the old solar system it was coming on for an hour a day to top us up, but with the new one we haven’t had the generator on at all since April 2013.

“There is a real pride in being off-grid – we were fairly green before moving here but we now feel like we’re really making a difference to the environment.”

Russell and Janice, 56, are now planning to consult Home Energy Scotland, the advice centre network managed by the Energy Saving Trust on behalf of the Scottish Government, about the Renewable Heat Incentive, which will pay them 12.2p for every kWh of electricity generated by their wood-fuelled boiler.

Their home, Long Rig, near Fyvie, Turriff, will be open between 10am and 4pm on Saturday, September 21 as part of the Green Homes Network Open Days.

Russell added: “We have already had people coming to look round the house after seeing us on the Green Homes Network tool on the Energy Saving Trust website, and we’re looking forward to welcoming more on September 21.”

Anyone wanting to visit should see https://www.greenhomesopenday.org.uk, call Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282 or e-mail greenhomes@est.org.uk.

Renewables fitted at Long Rig, Fyvie, Turriff, Aberdeenshire:

Solar pv: 180W Schuco and 250W Oynx Phono Panels

Wind: 1kW Futurenergy turbine

Solar water heating: Sharp

Wood-fuelled boiler: 3.5-10kW Biotech Toplight

High performance glazing

Loft insulation

Some 17 eco-friendly houses and hotels in Highlands and Islands and half a dozen homes in the North-east opened their doors to the public on September 21, with owners on hand to chat about the benefits of renewable technologies, and visitors able to see how they can save pounds off fuel bills.

Homes taking part in Dunoon, Isle of Mull, Invergarry, Dingwall, North Kessock, Inverness, Munlochy, Boat of Garten, Gollanfield, Culbokie, Invermoriston, Aviemore, Shetland, Isle of Lewis and Orkney.

North-east buildings are located in Aberdeen, Turriff, Keith and Banchory and include the Aberdeen Combined Heat and Power Plant, a pioneer of district heating.

Anthony Kyriakides, Scottish renewables manager at the Energy Saving Trust said:“Anyone who wants to find a building near them that is taking part in the scheme should visit https://www.greenhomesopenday.org.uk or call Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282.”

One Response

  1. Hi, Russell, you have done a wise thing. As a matter of some interest, have you calculated your average usage per day and what you use during your peak periods? I have a 5KW solar array with 905 amp hour batteries. (must keep within the low 20 ies % for long battery life)

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