MaidEnergy bringing bright ideas to reduce Royal Borough carbon footprint

Innovators who are helping to reduce the carbon footprint in the Royal Borough are stepping forward and showing the way for individuals, councils, and businesses alike. Chief reporter George Roberts spoke to Michael Beaven, a director at MaidEnergy, about the not-for-profit’s huge decarbonising projects as well as the small, everyday changes people can make to help the planet.

As people in the borough look to do their bit to reduce their carbon footprint, innovators with new and exciting ideas are starting to emerge.

One innovator that has entered the fray in the past few years is MaidEnergy, a not-for-profit, volunteer-led organisation that is introducing renewable energy to some of the borough’s biggest and most-used buildings.

This week, 150 solar panels are being installed on the roof of Braywick Leisure Centre after the group raised £58,000 last year. How? By offering all of its investors the opportunity to get their money back, and more, over several years.

After the success at Braywick, as well as other projects at Norden Farm and Furze Platt Senior School, the next plan is an even bigger one, closing to backers on Tuesday, January 26

Solar panels installed by MaidEnergy in one of their previous projects.

A fundraising target of £250,000 has been set to install ground source heat pumps at the Thames Valley Athletics Centre in Eton, which will provide it with clean energy to use year round.

MaidEnergy is one of many groups leading the charge against climate change in the Royal Borough, but even though its projects are on a large scale, director Michael Beaven still had plenty of tips for how individuals can reduce their carbon footprints.

“Rather than switching to something, try and find a way of doing less of something or doing it differently,” said Michael.

“Doing your local trip on a bike or walking rather than jumping in the car is much better than switching to an electric vehicle, but switching to an electric car is better than driving a diesel SUV.”

Those looking to do something bigger can also look to the Government’s Green Homes Grant, which can be used to part-fund works that make your home more environmentally friendly.

Michael said: “The Government has made money available to improve the insulation of your homes, heating systems, they’re big things but if you do that once it will have an impact for decades.

“There are things you can do every day, and will have an impact every day, and there’s the things you can do once that will have an impact for a long time.”

Individuals in the borough want to make a difference, but so does the council. In December, the Royal Borough adopted its climate strategy, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by or before 2050.

The authority consulted with scores of people and organisations like MaidEnergy while it was drafting the plans, and Michael was pleased with many aspects of the final product.

He said: “One of the things that has been really encouraging is the commitment to look at the supplementary planning documents, because every building we build now that isn’t zero carbon will cost a lot of money to make the changes we need to make.

“It’s really important the borough works with developers, so we don’t spend money now on building houses that we’re going to have to change in five years’ time.”

Anyone who has been doing some socially-distant exercise in Braywick Park this week may have noticed that work is under way on installing solar panels on the centre’s roof.

Following a successful fundraising effort at the beginning of 2020, renewable energy will soon be partly powering the council’s flagship leisure centre.

While it is not clear yet how much power the panels will provide the sports facility, there will be times, particularly in the summer, where all of the energy the centre uses will be coming from the sun.

In the winter, when energy demand is higher and the sun is less present, non-renewables will do the heavy lifting.

“We’ve concentrated on community buildings,” said Michael. “Partly because we know they’re going to be there for a long time, they’re larger buildings, and the benefit of our work will be shared more widely, it’s a combination of pragmatic and social benefit.”

Thames Valley Athletic Centre, in Eton, is the subject of MaidEnergy's latest share offer.

The next initiative for MaidEnergy is the Thames Valley Athletics Centre in Eton. The centre has eight gas boilers that are on their last legs, so MaidEnergy has offered to raise the funds to install a ground source heat pump in their place.

The new big thing in renewable energy, according to Michael the pumps work ‘like a fridge in reverse’, collecting heat from the ground, concentrating it, and using it to heat a building.

It takes electricity to circulate, but for every unit of electricity used, three or four units of heat are created, and if that electricity is created by a renewable source, the entire system becomes practically carbon neutral.

So far, the project has drawn about 100 investors, contributing £100,000. That figure is short of MaidEnergy’s goal of £250,000, but is beyond the project’s minimum threshold, meaning it will be going ahead once the share offer ends on Tuesday, January 26.

Any additional funds will help make the project bigger and more effective, and presents an exciting investment opportunity with social gain to boot.

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