Little Dartmouth Farm: a feasibility study

There are plenty of opportunities for renewable energy in this renovation of a cluster of farm buildings

Project duration: August 2007 to October 2007

Little Dartmouth Farm is an impressive and uniquely situated 300-acre property on the South Devon coast. The owners plan to sympathetically redevelop the farm buildings - including many stone-built barns - into accommodation, office space and recreational facilities, and make it, in the words of the owners, “as carbon neutral as we can”.

At the point in which CSE became involved with the project, the landscape and architectural plans were well advanced. This isn’t ideal, and as a rule it is better to consider the energy provision of a new development from the earliest possible stage.

An assessment of the site was undertaken by one of CSE’s technical team, Adam Charters, who drew up a detailed report and series of recommendations for energy efficiency and the introduction of renewable energy technologies.

Critically, our approach had to address the likely high energy use of the proposed redevelopment – including a swimming pool.

And, as ever, the emphasis was first and foremost on energy efficiency which should always be a cornerstone of any (re)development due to the benefits it has on capital costs, running costs and comfort. In particular, given that Little Dartmouth Farm stands exposed to the English Channel and is buffeted by strong winds, better insulation would likely prove an excellent investment. We urged that a review of the fabric of all buildings should be undertaken, specifically to ascertain whether increased levels of insulation could be incorporated within the architect’s master plan.

The geography and proposed use of the site made it a prime candidate for renewable energy. Our recommendations included the following:

  • A wind turbine (up to 25kW) is installed to make use of the excellent wind resource. This offers the shortest pay-back of any renewable energy device.
  • That the heating and domestic hot water is provided by solar thermal units and a 50kW biomass boiler. The use of solar thermal should be limited only by the availability of roof space and it is recommended to install at least 40m2.  
  • The owners should further investigate photovoltaic electricity if the tiles are thought to fit into the overall scheme.  

The option of ground source heat pumps was explored at length, but the size of the installation and the availability of other technologies outweighed the benefits.

It is hoped that Little Dartmouth Farm will become a flagship for the South Hams district - and indeed the South West region - if such opportunities are embraced.


CSE has considerable experience in conducting sustainable energy assessments of this scale (up to £10,000). See Brislington Park & Ride | Premises Recording Studio | Folly Farm.

For more information, please contact Martin Holley.

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