Fletcher Street Cottage Increases its Energy Efficiency

An energy resilience project by sustainability consultant Sebastian Crangle thanks to Enova Energy.

Fletcher Street Cottage Increases its Energy Efficiency

The Fletcher Street Cottage has undergone an energy-saving overhaul that will reduce its carbon footprint and improve resilience to rapidly rising energy costs. The project was funded by public donations to the charitable arm of Enova Community, the Byron-based energy retailer which sadly closed its doors as a consequence of the recent energy crisis. Enova Community’s Board decided to donate these funds to local organisations (Shift Project, Koori Mail and Fletcher Street Cottage) in need of support to improve their energy resilience and efficiency. To ensure the donations included funds for an energy consultant to assess energy usage patterns and recommend customised solutions to the organisation’s overall energy dependency.

The energy assessment of Fletcher Street Cottage was conducted by sustainability consultant Sebastian Crangle, who started back in August by interviewing staff about their energy use needs, including the invaluable breakfast and laundry services for people in the community sleeping rough or at risk of homelessness.

Seb also reviewed mountains of energy data, including how much energy the Cottage was using at different times of each day, and the energy generated from its 6.2kW solar system, installed during the initial renovations (donated in its entirety by local company Prosolar). As you might expect, he found there was a huge spike in energy consumption each weekday morning, from 6am to 10am, when the kitchen is in full swing and service users made most use of the facilities. And yet the Cottage also had a high ‘baseload’, the energy used day and night, mostly to run its commercial fridges.

A Plan of Action

Since the Cottage had brand new electrical appliances, and new gas hot water system, the assessment’s recommendations steered away from the usual priority of improving the energy efficiency of fixed appliances that consume the majority of a building’s energy. Instead, Seb focused on improvements to renewable energy generation, to offset the energy demands of the Cottage. He had observed that the main solar array of west facing panels were being compromised by a lanky, rapidly growing tree at the back of the Cottage. Also, there were no panels facing East to harness morning sun, when solar energy was needed the most. This had been intentional, due to concerns about the appearance of solar panels on the street-facing roof.

The actions proposed were therefore relatively simple:
1) install an additional 8 solar panels (3.1kW) on the east facing roof, and
2) have an arborist prune the tree so it didn’t so drastically shade the west facing solar panels.
3) switch to an energy retailer that provides a high proportion of renewable energy (Fletcher Street Cottage had been with Enova Energy, but like a lot of Byron residents was flicked to Origin energy after Enova’s closure).

A Sunny Outcome for Fletcher Street Cottage

In mid-October the tree was pruned back, an additional 8 solar panels were installed facing east, and the solar inverter upsized to meet the new total capacity of 9.3 kW. This work was again done by Prosolar, and funded by the Enova Community donation. Since then, Fletcher Street Cottage has seen a dramatic increase in its generation of renewable energy, to offset its ongoing demand for energy. In fact, energy production has tripled, up to a daily average of 48kWh per day (that’s 3 times the energy used per day by a 3 person household).

Over its lifetime, Fletcher Street Cottage’s solar has now produced over 2 megawatt hours of energy, all put to the valuable use of providing services to the Shire’s most vulnerable. The next test for Fletcher Street Cottage will be the impact of these improvements to its energy bills, which are expected to fall substantially. And yet, the impacts of this project are not just financial. Every kWh of energy sourced from renewable energy is one less kWh of demand for Earth - destroying coal and gas energy production. The same goes for reducing the amount of energy consumed in the first place. This is one of the key ways that organisations such as Fletcher Street Cottage, and homes and businesses alike, can reduce their carbon footprint, and overall impact on the planet.

Special thanks to Enova Community