On Wednesday 26 April, we co-hosted a ‘How to decarbonise your community building’ event with Inverness Masjid to discuss how the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) can help communities install renewable technologies such as heat pumps and solar panels. In this blog, Mhairi MacSween, our development officer for the Highland area, tells us more.

Waheed Khan from the Inverness Masjid speaks to a group of people about installing solar panels

We were delighted that people from 11 organisations were able to join us. The group had a chance to speak about their own buildings and potential projects over lunch before a presentation from myself on how to decarbonise their buildings and access support from the Community Buildings Fund. We had an interesting question and answer session and I’ve detailed some of these below.

We also heard from Waheed Khan from Inverness Masjid on his experiences of installing solar panels and a battery storage system to generate their own electricity and cut their energy bills. The Masjid installed a 6.4kW solar photovoltaic (PV) array and a 10.65 kW battery storage system. CARES provided support through a grant of £3,800 with match funding from the SSE’s Sustainable Development Fund (read our case study). He explained how their CARES development officer guided them through the process of speaking to installers and applying for funding to help them cover the costs. The solar panels and battery storage were installed in March 2020, just before lockdown, and they were one of the last to install just in time for the Feed-in-Tariff. Waheed talked us through how these improvements had also improved the rating on the building’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

Waheed says they are now considering installing a heat pump system to replace their gas central heating. The group discussed air-to-air heat pumps versus air-to-water heat pumps in buildings where there is a requirement to heat up the hall quickly or cool it down depending on who is using the facility. One attendee wondered how loud the air source heat pump units were as they have performances at their hall. I suggested they might want to visit another group who had installed to see a unit for themselves and hear about their experience.

We finished with a tour of the Masjid and a look at the battery system technology up close. Waheed explained more about how the solar panels and battery work. Everyone commented on how small the system was and that they were amazed at how little space the system took up, being barely noticeable inside the building.

Questions and answers that came up at the event

Q. If we obtain our three quotes to ensure procurement guidance, do we have to go with the least expensive?

A. Not necessarily, as long as we have the rationale for the decision on the preferred installer and the quote meets our comparison benchmarking for value for money.

Q. Do organisations need to have an energy audit to apply?

A. We do need to have a rationale for the installation. However, this can also be in the form of an EPC that makes those recommendations or from an architect/design team working on the project.

Q. Does CARES fund wind turbines?

A. Yes, CARES can provide support to communities wishing to investigate installing wind turbines. These are generally larger scale community owned projects or where the community invests in a commercial wind farm. We wouldn’t generally fund wind turbines at a community building scale, you’d be better putting solar panels on the roof. Get in touch with Local Energy Scotland to find out more.

– Mhairi Macsween, development officer for the Highland area

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