PlanLoCaL scale model gets an update

... now with anaerobic digester, solar farm and tiny cows

3 September 2013

A couple of renewable energy technologies are becoming more widespread in the UK, so it was time to give our PlanLoCaL model an update.

The PlanLoCaL scale model is an engagement tool that we use to stimulate informed discussion about spatial planning and renewable energy.

The model is not based on a real place, but it simulates a typical British urban to rural landscape. It features all the main renewable energy technologies, clearly showing their impact on the landscape, and how much power they could generate, helping a community to consider what mix of energy sources might be right for their area.

Solar farms

Electricity generation through fields of solar PV panels, mounted on arrays, is becoming more commonplace in the UK, and an increasingly attractive option for community-owned schemes. Field-based arrays, or 'solar farms', can range from a few kWs, to multi-MW developments such as the 34MW Wymeswold Airfield array – which covers a huge over 60 hectares (150 acres).

We wanted to show the potential scale of different solar farms, so the PlanLoCaL model now includes 25 arrays, each with a capacity of 47.7kW, which can be added to the model landscape a few at a time. When they're all set up, as in the photo below, they cover an area equivalent to 1.7 ha (4.3 acres). The size of the models and the spacing between each row is based on the UK's first solar farm at Wheal Jane.

The annual electricity generation of the PlanLoCaL model's largest solar farm would be 1,044MWh. This is substantially less than the model's large 2MW wind turbine, which would annually generate 4,730MWh of electricity. We can use the PlanLoCaL model to help communities consider this factor alongside others like the amount of land used or the visual impact of these different options.

Anaerobic digestion

Anaerobic digestion (AD) is all about generating heat and electricity from waste. It's the process of breaking down biodegradable materials using bacteria, in a controlled environment without oxygen.

AD plants often use agricultural waste and sewage. Our model AD plant is based on the Langage Farm facility. Langage Farm collects waste from its dairy cows and other organic waste from the surrounding area, through contracts with local authorities and waste management companies. It processes the waste in the digester to generate renewable energy, using the leftover ‘digestate’ as a fertiliser for improving the quality of their pasture, and ultimately, their cows' milk yield.

Their 500kW facility, which we've represented in miniature on the model, has a capacity of 20,000 tonnes, but typically operates at 16,000 tonnes; of which 3,000 tonnes will be farm slurry, 1,000 tonnes factory waste, and 12,000 tonnes will be other materials from outside; mostly food waste. In the first 18 months of its operation it generated 3,500MWh of electricity.

We've represented the dairy herd in miniature, too. Why not?

To find out more about the PlanLoCaL model, including how to hire it, visit the PlanLoCaL website.

The original model and latest additions were crafted by Bristol’s very own Amalgam.

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