Wendover feasibility study highlights challenges of energy transition in schools

Buckinghamshire Community Energy has published the results of a feasibility study analysing the energy transition prospects for seven major public buildings in Wendover.

Conducted in collaboration with Buckinghamshire Council and specialist energy consultants for schools, ReEnergise, and funded by the Rural Community Energy Fund, the study paves the way to protect the organisations from the recent dramatic energy price rises, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of the buildings.

The study aimed to assess the feasibility of putting all seven buildings onto a district heat network powered by a groundsource heat pump. It also looked at what was needed in terms of insulation and energy efficiency measures as well as the potential for installing solar panels to reduce the cost of electricity sourced from the Grid.

The seven buildings involved in the study include: John Colet School, John Hampden School, Wendover Junior School, Wendover Swimming Pool, Wendover Youth Centre, Wendover Memorial Hall and Little Acorns Kindergarten.

Collectively, they are responsible for emitting 398 tonnes of carbon emissions per year, at a taxpayer cost of £143,500 in energy bills. This is likely to go up by at least 50% as energy price rises hit contracts later this year. They were therefore ideal targets for slashing energy use, as Buckinghamshire aims for net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.

The 123-page study, which included technical assessments of the current heating and power supply to each organisation as well as energy assessments, concluded that because almost all of the gas boilers on site are relatively new, it does not make sense to take them all out and replace them with a groundsource heat pump system at this stage. Instead, it is likely that air source heat pumps will replace the existing boilers as they reach end of life.

On energy efficiency, the report found that, “The performance of the buildings varies from Commercial EPC grades A to D, and many would benefit from simple measures such as cavity wall or loft insulation. Along with some external roof insulation and point of use (PoU) water heaters, these measures could reduce heat and hot water demand on the Campus by nearly 20%.”

Study authors ReEnergise have estimated the cost of energy efficiency measures on the campus could cost as much as £550,000, but the long-term benefits in terms of savings and carbon emissions reductions make this a logical investment.

The study found that the installation of solar panels on the roofs could provide as much as 450MWh of electricity, which equates to about 63% of actual demand. The estimated £500k investment for this could come from Buckinghamshire Community Energy with investment from its Members who are drawn from the local community.

Kirsty Shanahan, Development Director at Buckinghamshire Community Energy, says the team are pleased with the depth of information obtained, but are aware that there is still a long way to go.

“The amount of investment required is significant in terms of ticking off all the things we need to do at the Wharf Road Campus sites to reduce their carbon footprints,” she says. “There are also a lot of stakeholders and moving parts, but we are prepared to work hard with Buckinghamshire Council to deliver decarbonised and reduced energy use for these organisations, and we are already discussing the Development Phase of the project in which we will decide what to do and how to actually deliver it.”

The Wendover Wharf Road Campus Decarbonisation project is one of many such projects that Buckinghamshire Community Energy is progressing as it supports local businesses and public organisations to switch to low carbon energy.