Alderney’s first off grid home has been given the go-ahead by planners – despite objections from the local power company.
Alderney’s electricity supply is generated entirely from burning imported diesel.
Power bills are steep – currently 44p per unit.
States of Alderney Technical Services Officer Richard Phelan and his partner have been given the green light to build a house that will run on power generated from solar photovoltaic panels and stored in Tesla batteries.
Mr Phelan owns the parcel of land his home is being built on and he aspires to see the entire 13-plot development run off grid.
But the application however has highlighted a dichotomy for Alderney’s power supplier which in the past has spoken of aims to steer the island away from its dependence on fossil fuels.
But a limited customer base with fixed infrastructure costs andweak buying power due to the small volumes required means they need to maintain the current demand for power to make the system viable.
A trend for homes going off grid would upset that delicate balance.
Alderney’s electricity grid does not allow the ‘feed in’ system common on the mainland whereby excess power generated from photo voltaic panels can be sold back to the utility supplier.
A proposal to build a solar farm on the flanks of Fort Gronez has not been taken forward.
Richard Phelan applied to build his home on Clos Casquets and its power system will come from Little Green Energy company in Guernsey. Arriving with a 25 year warranty, the estimated payback takes 10 years, yielding the household 15 years of free electricity.
Mr Phelan said the Tesla batteries they planned to use would have storage capacity to meet power needs of the home for three days.
AEL board member Matthew Birmingham objected to the application. He said Alderney Building Law required essential services to be installed before the to the plot was developed.
A mains electricity cable runs down Rue de la Saline past the building plot but at the moment there is no substation to supply the development with electricity. The cost of that has to be met by the developer.
Mr Birmingham pointed out that most houses with photovoltaic panels were connected to the main grid as a back up.
‘The idea of being totally off grid is to be applauded.
‘But the underlying infrastructure for Clos Casquets is not complete.
‘The Land Use Plan says there should be complete services in place before development starts.
‘If there is a power shortage there is no way this house at the present moment can be put on the grid because services are not there. Then there’s a problem. A diesel generator in a residential area is not appropriate.’
The application also highlighted a significant gap in States policy, he said.
‘If a substantial number of individuals who can afford to pay for the new technology decide to go off grid this will lead to the cost of communal energy supply increasing and those costs being born by everyone else, many of those being those that can least afford it.
‘Whilst the power station upgrade has seen a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through greater engine efficiencies, AEL would prefer to see a whole island solution to the island’s energy supply issues.
‘But for this to happen there needs to be an Island energy policy for AEL to able to act upon to introduce greener energy supply.’
Mr Phelan told the committee that AEL was effectively discouraging green energy initiatives by Islanders.
‘AEL have no plans on integrating renewable energy in to their existing network. They are happy to continue with the importation of fossil and the burning of fossil fuels.
‘Rather than wanting to work with Islanders on the integration of renewables into their network, they attempt to cause issues. With all the evidence of climate change pointing to the burning of fossil fuels, this is entirely unacceptable.
‘Alderney should only be led by the local electricity company and not discouraged, Unfortunately, they are forcing individuals into purchasing renewable energy systems, in order to reduce their carbon footprint.
‘This may be the first domestic property entirely off-grid, but it won’t be the last.’
Acting Planning Officer Tissie Roberts reminded committee members that Fort Clonque, run as tourist accommodation by the Landmark Trust, was off grid, utilising fuel cells and solar panels attached to the officer quarters.
The application was approved subject to various conditions being applied concerning site access and hours of work there.