We’re delighted to be joining a new mentoring service for Community Energy projects as a Peer Mentor, thanks to a new project funded by the Esmee Fairburn Foundation.
Like the other Peer Mentors across the country, we have a range of experience to share, in terms of scale and technologies, in renewable energy generation. And we are experienced in mentoring a range of projects, having run a similar service through the Energy Saving Trust, as well as our current advisory services.
Eligible community energy groups accepted onto the programme can access up to 6 days of support from the Peer Mentors. It is perceived that mentoring activities will be undertaken using a range of interventions to include face to face meetings (one to one or group), telephone discussions and email exchanges.
Full details will be provided when you apply for support, and you will be matched with the mentor who meets your needs in terms of project type and location – though there’s no harm in requesting us is there?!
A couple of weeks ago we hosted photo/video journalist John Robertson for a day to talk about life at Hockerton, and how we manage to live sustainably whilst enjoying all the comforts of the 21st century. He was particularly keen to hear about one family’s move from London and how they’d settled in.
It’s always a pleasure to show people round, and see the moment they ‘get’ we’re not a load of judgemental hemp-soled-sandle-wearing soap-dodgers, but that this is a lifestyle that makes sense on so many levels. JR definitely got it, as you’ll see in the film below – and no bribes were offered or taken!
A third dimension is creeping into the energy conscious consumer’s priorities alongside power use and performance: time. New time of use tariffs will emerge over the coming decade to try and manage down use during peak demand hours (4pm – 8pm) to avoid the higher financial and environmental costs of flexible supply. Alongside the risk that new tariffs will be no clearer than Economy 7, which leaves about 40% of users out of pocket, there is the risk that consumers will simply pay higher bills as the price for flexibility.
So, here’s the good news from that Powering the Nation report:
“More efficient appliances would make a bigger difference to the peak load than ‘load-switching’ per se”
This is why we need regulations on energy efficiency. Regulations address a lack of information in the market, and in this case they address a (highly understandable) lack of knowledge amongst consumers of the relationship between power use and performance. Of course, it takes time for those efficiencies to be felt in every home, with the potential need for help for fuel poor households, so in the meantime here at Hockerton Housing Project we are timing our flexible use such as our immersion heaters, white goods and the EV to match peak solar generation or off-peak supply hours, and are planning to investigate how to better match use to generation.
And finally, one household has got a cordless vacuum cleaner, one example of how batteries could transform the way and times we use energy. But it’s so useful that, whilst its energy use can be timed to cut financial and environmental costs per kWh, the total energy use could be much higher because it’s so handy. It’s never simple is it?!
This year we’ve planned a more diverse planting scheme in our polytunnel, and it’s paying off. For the past 8 years we’ve had two tunnels, with a rotation of tomatoes in one and a range of vegetables in the other; but a poor tomato harvest and a new year’s resolution led to a review of our approach.
The ‘tomato tunnel’ was always a sight to behold: two narrow paths leading through a veritable jungle of yellow and red fruits, large and small. But last year the plants suffered from mildew, affecting both the yield and flavour. As we are organic we don’t use fungicides, and as we can’t control the heat, the only solution open to us was to see if we could improve ventilation by increasing the distance between plants.
Our planning in early 2014 was also affected by a new year’s resolution to make more of the tunnels, having moved them next to each other within easier reach of the homes. We wanted to extend the season for peas and beans, and see what impact the extra warmth could have on a range of brassicas and celeriac.
So far, so good. The tomato tunnel is in full production: it is still a jungle but with more shafts of light and that all important air flow. We also found room for a cucumber plant or two, and the additional spacing has left room for underplanting of peppers and chillis, celeriac and a mix of herbs, most notably basil.
Tunnel two has gone through the greatest change. We’ve learned that the tunnel extends the broad bean season from a fortnight glut to four productive months, and harvested onions, garlic and a range of brassicas, impressive in size, looks and of course taste.
With those early crops now cleared as outdoor planting takes over, we are starting to harvest the first of the sweetcorn and are gearing up for winter with more peas, beans, brassicas, and carrots. So much for August being the month you just sit back and enjoy your garden!
If you’re thinking of getting a polytunnel or are reviewing your planting, we recommend taking a look at First Tunnels, their monthly planting advice is particularly helpful. And for organic seeds and seedlings, try Delfland Nurseries. The ability to book deliveries months in advance is particularly useful if you have limited time, space or patience to raise seedlings, particularly the trickier ones!
And if you fancy visiting our tomato jungle, along with a tour of one of our eco-homes and the wider site, please join us on our next Sustainable Living tour on 20 September.