1st January, 2008
Three years ago, winter was not a good time of year for residents at Hoathly Hill in West Sussex. A community founded in 1972 on the principles of Rudolf Steiner, many of Hoathly Hill’s residents enjoyed the sense of quiet self-sufficiency that living on a smallholding in Sussex’s High Weald gave them.
Keeping warm, however, was a different story. Three quarters of the community drew gas for their boilers from a Calor Gas tank kept on site, which had to be topped up regularly by tanker delivery. The pipes for the system were old and dangerously leaky, meters needed replacing and every year the price of off-grid gas would spiral upwards. During the winter some of the community were paying up to £200 a month for gas, despite living in well-insulated homes. For Marion Briggs, one of Hoathly Hill’s residents, seeing the back of the Calor Gas system became a personal ambition.
The idea of using renewable energy as an alternative had been a community dream for several years, but it wasn’t until Briggs met renewable energy expert Stuart Boyle, who was house-hunting in the area, that the ideas began to take shape.
Boyle encouraged the community to seek funding for a feasibility study, which would look at what sources of energy the site might be able to use. Money came from EDF Energy and the Forestry Commission, both of which showed immediate interest in the project. The results of the study indicated that the community was a good candidate for a wood-fired district heating system, in which a...
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