There is a remarkable charity in St Albans called Earthworks who provide horticultural training for those with learning difficulties. When their old shed burnt down in 2011 they replaced it with a beautiful oak-framed barn to provide a place to shelter in the winter and in which to congregate in all year round. Not being attached to either the gas or electricity grid, they turned to local renewable energy companies for some light, heat and hot water. We designed an off grid system with a PV array, a charge controller and a 210Ah battery that would provide four or five hours of illumination from a total of sixteen low energy bulbs. In fact, we went on to install the whole electrical system and, having contemplated a 12V DC system decided that 230V AC system with an inverter would be the best way forward. They’re now looking forward to the nights closing in as they can simply turn on the lights and carry on using their fantastic new facility in the evenings.
Many hands make light work
We’d like to thank one of our electrical contractors, Andrew Sinclair who, like us, was generous enough to supply his time for free and the whole project had genuinely collaborative feel. Our friend (and rival) Giles Handford of the Small Solar Company completed a neat solar thermal system to provide hot water and we worked together to solve the difficulties of using a 12V pump and controller. A log burning stove was fitted by Chiswell Fireplaces and we can see that the hardest thing to do on a winter’s evening will be to get people to go home.
Judging from the smiles on everybody’s face, it’s clear that the new building is a complete success and we hope that all of the renewable technologies prove a valuable asset for everyone that uses them. They say you reap what you sow and the staff at Earthworks deserve every success having worked so hard to help so many people.