Green Technology. Guide for Householders

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1 Green Technology Guide for Householders

2 Introduction Gateshead Council recognises that householders have an important role to play in choosing to use renewable sources of energy production. The source of energy used in our homes is a very important factor when trying to reduce the amount of carbon (CO2) emissions from them. Electricity that is produced by gas or coal-fuelled power stations has a higher level of CO2 emissions associated with it, whereas renewable energy sources result in little or no CO2 emissions. Enquiries from householders are starting to grow as it is becoming easier to purchase small-scale wind turbines and solar panels. The Council will also be reducing carbon emissions throughout the borough through its sustainable community strategy Vision Sustainable Gateshead having a challenging pathway to achieving our improvement targets with our partners. This guidance is designed to assist anyone considering changing to a renewable energy source, by explaining what permissions might be required and providing links to other sources of advice. For completely new developments, renewable energy sources should be considered as part of the original design. The Council will be adopting the Local Development Framework (LDF) in the future to replace the Unitary Development Plan and will be promoting sustainable development still further through its formal planning policies. In addition to actually producing your own energy at home, there are also various ways to use less energy in the first place, such as insulating walls and roofspaces, buying A rated electrical appliances, draught proofing, getting a more efficient boiler, using energy efficient light bulbs, and turning the heating down. Even just closing your curtains at night helps to stop heat escaping through the windows. For information on saving energy please contact The Energy Saving Trust at or call for free on Background The Government extended permitted development rights to domestic microgeneration from the 6th April 2008; permitted development rights means development that you can undertake without the need for planning permission from the Council. The extended permitted development rights apply to solar thermal panels and photovoltaic panels, ground source heat pumps, water source heat pumps, biomass heating system and combined heat and power systems. The Government has not yet extended permitted development rights to wind turbines and air source heat pumps due to currently unresolved concerns over noise and vibration and the potential impact these can have on neighbours. If planning permission is required because what you propose to do is not permitted development, the fee for a householder application to install renewable energy technologies is currently 150. The Council offer a free pre application service where if you write to us with your proposal and the dimensions etc. we can confirm whether or not your proposal will need planning permission; for example because of its scale or if you live in a listed building or a conservation area. 2

3 Types of Renewable Energy Production Solar Energy Systems There are two main types of collector Solar systems for heating water Photovoltaic cells that convert light energy to electricity Solar Water Heating Systems If you have a southerly-facing roof then it may be worth considering solar water heating. There are currently two types of solar panel available; flat panel collectors and evacuated tubes. Though more expensive than traditional systems, a solar system can preheat water entering a conventional system and cut fuel bills considerably. They are particularly appropriate in large family homes that use large quantities of hot water. A carefully designed system can provide up to 100% of your heated water needs through most of the summer, and even in winter on a cloudy day could still provide up to 20% of the heat required for hot water. The evacuated tubes type is more expensive, but is also more efficient. 3

4 Photovoltaic Cells Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert light energy into electric energy, and need only daylight to work, rather than sunshine. The greater the intensity of the light, the greater the flow of electricity, and no greenhouse gases are generated. While the installation of a photovoltaic system can seem expensive, the price of units will come down as more and more people install them; and power companies are now starting to buy back any excess or off peak energy generated by PV cells. PV cells come in a variety of shapes and colours, ranging from grey solar tiles that look like roof tiles, to panels and transparent cells that you can use on conservatories and glass to provide shading as well as generating electricity. Both PV and solar heating systems work best on southeast to southwest facing roofs. If you have a flat roof, the panels would need to be angled to capture the sun. Ideally, you will need 2-4m2 of roof receiving direct sunlight for the main part of the day. If you are installing a solar heating system for hot water, you ll also need space to locate an additional water cylinder, if you don t already have one. Or you can replace your existing cylinder with a dual coil cylinder which will heat water via the solar panels where sufficient sunlight is available, or via your heating boiler. The estimated payback for a system ranges significantly and will depend on the circumstances of each site, although it should be noted that some payback periods could be quite lengthy. Maintenance costs for the cells are low and generally only involve cleaning the panels. Before installing solar panels or photovoltaic cells please check whether planning restrictions apply to your home. This could be the case if you live in a flat, if you are located in a conservation area, and would also be the case if your property is a listed building. It may also depend on whether the solar panels/pv cells project beyond the slope of your roof more than 200mm. 4

5 Ground Source Heat Pumps The earth s surface acts as a huge solar collector, absorbing radiation from the sun. In the UK several metres below the surface, the ground maintains a constant temperature of 11 to 13 C. In winter, this temperature is warmer than the air above it. Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are used to extract this heat and transfer it to a building through pipes, where heat is required; as space heating or to heat water. In the summer months the ground temperature is cooler than the air on the surface. The function of a GSHP can be reversed and used as a cooling mechanism, drawing heat out of a building. GSHP systems require space around a property to bury pipes into the ground to absorb the heat; either using a trench or borehole, but when installed the systems are invisible and have minimal maintenance requirements. However, an indoor unit is also required that will require space and maintenance. For every unit of electricity used to pump the heat, typically three to four units of heat are produced. The heat produced will feed your home s heat distribution system under floor heating or radiators to heat your home and, in some cases, your hot water. GSHPs can work with radiators, but under-floor heating is better as it works at lower temperature. If you are considering using a GSHP, you ll need to make sure that there is space for a trench or bore hole to be dug just outside your home and that the ground is suitable to dig. The installation of a GSHP is permitted development and so you won t need planning permission regardless of where you live. However, please be aware that the creation of boreholes might have an impact on archaeological deposits. 5

6 Air Source Heat Pumps Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside to heat buildings. There are two types of air-source heating systems. Air-to-air systems provide warm air, which is circulated to heat the building. The other type, air-to-water, heat water to provide heating to a building through radiators or an underfloor system. In the same way that a fridge uses refrigerant to extract heat from the inside, keeping your food cool, and air source heat pump extracts heat from the outside air, and uses it to heat your home and hot water. It is even possible for air source heat pumps to extract useful heat from air at temperatures as low as minus 15 oc. The benefits of air source heat pumps are similar to ground-source heat systems. Firstly, neither type of system requires the use or storage of external fuel. The systems instead run on electricity, which eliminates the need for a gas connection or storage of oil/solid fuel. Air source heat pumps present an advantage over ground source heat pumps because they require less space to install (an evaporator coil needs to be installed on the exterior wall of the house). Instead of requiring the installation of buried underground coils, air source systems can be fitted using much less space and are therefore, more suited for an urban home. As mentioned above, permitted development rights don t extend to air source heat pumps, so you ll need to contact the Council for advice on whether or not you ll need planning permission. Any impact on the appearance of the building will be of particular importance if it is within a conservation area. listed building consent would also be required if the evaporator coil is to be installed on a listed building. 6

7 Biomass Logs, wood chips or pellets are fuel used in a modern efficient burner to provide heat. The fuel can be grown specifically or produced using waste products from other activities like forest management. The carbon dioxide released as the wood fuel burns, is equal to the amount absorbed during growth, resulting in a carbon neutral process. There are two main ways of using biomass to heat your home; stoves or boilers. Stoves provide space heating fuelled by logs or pellets. Some models can be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating. Boilers connected to central heating and hot water systems are suitable for pellets, logs or chips. Log burners require manual loading but may be unsuitable for some situations, whilst pellet and wood chip systems are automatic, but can be more expensive. Once installed biomass boilers are typically very efficient, reaching efficiencies of 80% and above. If you are thinking of installing a biomass boiler, please consider the following points: It is important that you have somewhere to store the fuel, have access to the boiler to stoke it, and have a local fuel supplier. The flue must be specially designed for wood fuel appliances. You ll need to ensure you comply with all safety and building regulations (see Part J of the Building Regulations) and wood can only be burnt on exempted appliances under the Clean Air Act. This mainly applies to domestic appliances. If your house is in a conservation area, then planning permission might be required for the flue, depending where it is sited. You ll need planning permission, wherever you live, if the flue would exceed the highest part of the roof by one metre or more. Listed building consent could also be required if your home is a listed building. 7

8 Wind Energy The force of the wind is used to turn blades that drive a generator to produce electricity. It will be important to know the amount of wind available at your site, to see if this would be the best technology to use; this can be found by referring to Wind speeds increase with height; so ideally the site should be a smooth hilltop with clear exposure, free from obstructions like buildings and trees. Micro wind turbines are designed to cope better with the turbulence that they encounter being attached to a building, although this will compromise their efficiency. Wind turbines in urban settings are not always the best renewable energy option as wind speeds in urban areas can vary dramatically and the wind turbine may not generate its published output of energy. There are two types of wind turbine: horizontal axis and vertical axis. Vertical axis turbines cope better with turbulence, are quieter, and are activated by wind coming from any direction, whereas horizontal axis turbines need to rotate to track wind direction. Vertical axis turbines are more expensive than the horizontal type. If it is suitable, a wind turbine will save you money instantly as electricity is produced. In addition the system is pollution free. If you generate more electricity than you need, it can be sold back to the national grid. Permitted Development rights do not currently extend to wind turbines and in many cases they will require planning permission. Issues such as visual impact, conservation area/historic building issues, potential impacts on bats and birds and noise may need to be taken into account before planning permission could be granted. 8

9 Further information Please contact the Council in writing for free advice at Development Control, Gateshead Council, Civic Centre, Regent Street, Gateshead, NE8 1HH or by at: The Council s Countryside Team Provides further guidance on the potential impact of wind turbines on protected species (bats and birds). Contact: Peter Shield on ext. 3441, or Peter Bell on ext The Council s Conservation Team Provides further guidance on the potential impact of various technologies on historic buildings and areas. Contact Clare Lacy on ext or Stuart Norman on ext Or if you would like more information on the renewable energy methods described in this guide or would like to know how you can use less energy and save money, these contacts below are good sources of further information. Energy Saving Trust Promotes the sustainable and efficient use of energy, offering free and impartial advice Renewable Energy Association This organisation represents renewable energy producers and promotes the use of sustainable energy in the UK. The National Energy Foundation Their website contains a range of practical advice and money saving tips. The Planning Portal Gives advice on situations when planning permission will be required and, if you do need planning permission it allows planning applications to be made on-line. The Green Register of Construction Professionals The first of its kind and is a listing of architects, engineers and trades people who have demonstrated a commitment of sustainable building practices. Gateshead Council is a member of The Green Register 9

10 English Heritage If you live in a Conservation Area or Listed Building, advice from English Heritage will assist you in making choices that improve energy efficiency and also respect historic character. Natural England Provides information on potential impacts of wind turbines on bats. publications/publications/default.aspx Low Carbon Buildings Programme Provides information on how to qualify for grants for the installation of microgeneration technology in a range of buildings. Disclaimer This guide was produced in April 2009 and offers general advice on renewable energy applications at that time, it therefore cannot deal with specific issues covering every situation and may not be wholly up to date as technological advances are always being made, there are also occasional changes to the planning system itself. You are advised to seek the appropriate specialist independent advice before considering the implications of any of the suggested measures. This guidance is not adopted Council policy for the purposes of assessing planning applications it is an information source for residents of Gateshead. 10

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