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Using renewable energy

We are here in Cornwall on Cottage Farm, one of Britain’s only carbon neutral farms, where we are going to meet owner, Paul Sousek, to talk to him about how he uses his renewable technologies to power his house.
This whole system of your renewable technologies works together as a whole. Could you explain how this works? Yes. What we try to do is to ensure that all the different elements of what we have here contributes to the same goal, to minimise our energy requirements. Now, the centre of the whole system, basically, is a heat store, which is a barrel, large barrel of water, well insulated. Any excess energy we get from any device goes into there to heat that water, so that we can then use that water to heat the house or to use as hot water for bathing and for washing. Nowadays, there are large numbers of people who have PV panels on their roofs.
You know, the government was subsidising this. We have a couple of wind turbines, a small 3 kilowatt wind turbine, and also a large 70 kilowatt wind turbine. So obviously, it works at night, whereas, PV don’t. It works really well in the winter, whereas, PV panels work well in the summer. So they complement each other really well. The small wind turbine and the small PV panels together produce more energy than we need– about 120% of our consumption, in fact, it was measured at. But we also have a large wind turbine, 70 kilowatt wind turbine, which is powerful enough to supply energy for about 50 houses. Wow. OK.
Any extra energy that we don’t use in the house is then sent to the immersion heater in our heat store by a device called Immersion. That basically measures how much electricity is being produced for ourselves and how much we use. And any excess electricity, every last watt, is sent to the immersion heater and contributes to heating our water. We also use a wood burner to heat the house during the day if it’s really cold. And half the energy of the burning wood is sent up to the heat store to heat our water. So we have about three or four different ways of heating water.
And therefore, whatever the conditions, we are able to accumulate sufficient amount of energy to heat as much water as we need. We have also invested in a biodiesel machine. So we basically can convert waste vegetable oil that’s used in restaurants and cooking into biodiesel. And we run on our cars and tractor on that. Why does not everyone adopt these technologies, or set up windmills and solar panels? Yeah. Well, that’s a good question. Well, first of all, the first problem is that the government have now removed most of the subsidies. We get a subsidy for the wind turbine we have, because it was installed before the subsidies were withdrawn.
Nowadays, it would be more difficult, because in order to get a wind turbine that doesn’t require a subsidy, it would have to be the biggest one you can site on land. Because the bigger the wind turbine, the more energy efficient it is. And there are objections to these large wind turbines. People, particularly in places like Cornwall, where there’s a large proportion of population who have moved down here for their retirement, they have bought a little cottage because they like the view, or because they like the environment in which the cottage is set. And they are often quite violently objecting to any suggestion that there should be something technological in their environment.
So you have quite a big system of renewable technologies on your farm. How did you finance that? And have they paid for themselves so far? Well, I’ve calculated some time ago, they cost something about 35,000 pounds to put all the renewable energy in. And whether it’s paid for itself– by now, it would have paid for itself. I mean, we used to have bills of well over 1,000 pounds for electricity in this house. That was partly due to inefficiency of the house itself, and partly because energy costs are quite high. Nowadays, our bills for electricity are minimum, about 50 pounds a year, or something like that. We use almost no electricity from the outside.
And when we do, it is basically compensated for by the payment we get for electricity we export. So basically, effectively, we pay nothing. We pay nothing for electricity.

In this video we’ll visit Cottage Farm, a carbon neutral beef and sheep farm in Cornwall, and speak to owner Paul Sousek about renewable energy.

Are you yourself using renewable energy from solar panels or wind power? Tell us your tricks to save energy in the comment area below. Remember you can ‘like’ or reply to comments made by your fellow learners.

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