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Tansor village hall: a case study of a solar-powered heat pump in a community building

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 24 October 2013 at 9:27 am

A village hall which is using a lottery grant to install an air source heat pump partially powered by solar panels has come up with a way of still qualifying for the government's feed-in tarrif (FiTs).

Under FiT rules, installations that are funded by public money, including lottery cash, cannot claim the payments - which are given for renewable power generated and power exported. 

So Tansor village hall, in East Northants, is going to use the entire £10,000 lottery grant to pay for the heat pump, and use funds they have saved elsewhere to pay for the panels. 

However, this does mean that it will not qualify for the renewable heat incentive (RHI) - the money available for those who install their own renewable heating systems - for the heat pump installation.

“In total, the installation is going to cost £15,000 with the breakdown currently just under £10,000 for the pump and radiators, and the rest for the solar panels,“ said village hall committee member, Jenny Munro. "Over the years the village hall committee has consciously run fund-raising events and built up reserves."

The feed-in tariff is a government incentive for people or organisations who generate their own renewable electricity. Payments are made quarterly for 20 years based on amount of power you generate and the unused power you export to the grid. Users also benefit from savings on their bills as they electricity they've generated, rather than buying it. Installations that qualify for FiTs include solar PV (panels that generate electricity as opposed to heating), wind turbines and micro hydro schemes

The feed-in tariff is available to anyone who uses their own funds or a private loan to pay for the installation. To qualify for the standard FiT rate, a building must have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of level D or above.

The RHI is designed for those installing new heating systems, to offset the additional cost of installing a renewable system as opposed to one powered by fossil fuels. Again it is not available to anyone who has received a grant to install it. 

Tansor village hall is currently heated using old wall-mounted fan heaters which users found costly and inefficient to run.

Last year, the hall spent £1,400 on electricity, the majority of which went on heating. Whilst they do not expect the panels to provide all the power needed for the heat pump - particularly in the winter months when the pump will be on more, but sunshine is in shorter supply - they are confident their bills will be lower once the new system is intalled. And, with an anticipated £700 a year income from FiTs, payback on the panels could happen as quickly as eight to 10 years.

The hall's journey towards choosing a new heating system began with an information event hosted by the Northamptonshire County Association of Local Councils. The event was aimed at village halls looking into renewable heating systems and potential sources of funding. 

Initially, the hall looked at an air-to-air heat pump but this was rejected after conversations with other village halls who found the system inefficient. An air-to-water heating system using radiators, was eventually settled upon. The hall will install a size 11 Daikin Altherma Monobloc air to water pump and 16 Canadian Solar 245 watt monocrystalline black panels with a peak wattage of 3.92kw. The panels will be connected to an AMA Sunny Boy 3000 HF inverter. 

Tansor village hall underwent an extensive renovation in 2002 including a new, insulated roof. However, the solid walls and period windows mean the building is not as efficient as it could be, and the Jenny says the committee's next job will be to look into funding for secondary glazing. 

The funding for this installation came from the National Lottery’s Awards for All scheme. 

Awards for All gives from £300 to £10,000 in grants for projects which ‘address the issues, needs and aspirations of local communities and people’. Funds are available for ‘community projects aimed at developing skills, improving health, revitalising the local environment and enabling people to become more active citizens'.

Tansor village hall committee received support in making the application from the external funding manager at the local council. 

“Su Davies at East Northants is brilliant,” Jenny reports. "She reassured us that there were still funds available [for this sort of project] even in the depths of a recession. She told us how to apply, read through our draft application and suggested a couple of improvements. It takes a bit of time and effort but the application process is not overly difficult.”

The hall secured the full £10,000 grant very quickly and the work will be completed over the October 2013 half term, so as not to disturb the playgroup that uses the hall five mornings and two afternoons a week. 

"The only tip I would give when applying for grants is to follow the advice and instructions that you can download with the application forms," says Jenny. "Be exact. Make sure the information you give in each part of the application form is specific to that question and see if you can find someone who has been through the process to advise you." 

More information

YouGen guide to solar electricity

YouGen guide to heat pumps

YouGen guide to feed-in tariffs

YouGen guide to the renewable heat incentive

From the blog

Solar PV plus air source heat pumps: a village hall case study (Aug 2011)

Eco renovation in Devon village hall (June 2010)

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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