Overview of renewable energy technologies

Solar PV is a mature renewable energy technology, well suited to community renewable energy projects. Panels capture energy from the sun using photovoltaic cells. These cells do not need direct sunlight to work - they can still generate some electricity on a cloudy day. The cells convert sunlight into electricity, which can then be used directly on-site (e.g. within a community building or home) or exported onto the grid. Community solar can be developed in many different ways, from installing small arrays on domestic properties to large arrays on community buildings or ground-mounted in the form of a solar park.

Wind turbines harness the power of the wind to use it to generate electricity. The UK has one of the best wind resources in Europe, making it an ideal place to construct a community-owned wind turbine. Wind turbines range in size from small 5-10kW models, up to multi-MW large scale installations. All wind turbines must be accredited under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).

Hydro-power uses running water from a stream or river to generate electricity. Small or micro-hydro systems in the UK range from sub 20kW systems up to large 100-200kW units. Hydro systems by their nature are often more complex and need a wide range of expertise and resources to be successful. This page will introduce some of the areas to consider in the early stages of developing a hydro project and provide links to modules and external sites to assist with the process.

Heating our homes, workplaces and social spaces is a significant challenge in the context of decarbonisation. Taking premises off gas, to start using renewable technologies is becoming increasingly of interest to communities. Heat can be generated by burning biomass (usually wood or sometimes food waste), using ground source or air source or by using heat-generating solar panels. These technologies, particularly when coupled with energy efficiency interventions can create huge benefits and increased levels of comfort people and places.

Electrical Vehicles (EVs) are here and starting to offer opportunities for all corners of the energy sector. The environmental benefits of a move to EVs are stark. Growth in electric vehicles alone could save 2,000,000 barrels of oil per day by 2025. More and more community energy organisations are engaging with transport, but this can be done in a variety of ways: community-owned electric vehicle charging infrastructure, community car-sharing clubs and community bus services. Identifying the need in your community is the most pressing decision for which pathway to take. 

Energy storage is key to a renewable energy future. To store excess energy at times of peak generation and be able to use it at a later time brings about a fundamental change to how we generate and use energy. With battery technology prices falling and new technologies being developed, energy storage could complement your generation project. 

Further useful information

The CEE member map will allow you to see what technologies are being used by who and where. 

Local Energy Scotland CARES Toolkit gives advice on technology options 

Carbon Co-op's heating lessons from Ireland webinar.

Haynes Electricity Storage Manual