SIMON’S QUEST FOR ENERGY SELF-SUFFICIENCY.

Marilyn and I moved into our home “Wayside” in 1978. Before this I had been a passionate experimenter in renewable energy generation with several failed wind turbines to my credit. I continued with my mission at our new address and was frustrated by more failures - my engineerIng skills not being up to the requirements for success in our often windy rural location.


The Norfolk Children’s Book Centre was born in 1986. We built it in stages alongside our house and the idea of powering it using renewable power became a new challenge.

Wind-power was my first love and, solar panels being quite expensive at that time meant that the most attractive option was to go for a commercial wind turbine. My choice was the newly arrived 6kW turbine made by Proven Engineering - a Scottish company. After a few teething problems (a blade flew off!), the turbine, together with battery storage, provided about half of the power we needed.


Over the years solar became cheaper and I was picking up secondhand panels as I found them to boost the charging of the battery. After 20 years of whizzing round the turbine suffered a major failure which I judged uneconomic to repair.

By then the solar contribution had increased enough to do a pretty good job for most of the year. In 2021 I invested in a new 20kW/hr lithium battery and new inverters and I can now claim that both the bookshop and our house are self sufficient in electricity for almost all the year. In those short gloomy winter days however we still require some help from the grid.

Heating of course is very energy hungry and when you most need it, it is in short supply even though solar panels are more efficient in cold weather. Extensive double glazing has helped and I have installed an electric solar powered boiler to assist our existing condensing oil boiler as sunlight permits. Better zone heating control incorporating person detection also plays a part in reducing our oil consumption.


Recently, with Marilyn’s encouragement, I revived wind as a power source by installing a smaller 2kW turbine making use of the original pole mount. Our previous turbine had been a landmark helping visitors to find our isolated haven but you would now need binoculars to see the smaller version!


Other ways we try to reduce our carbon footprint:


Although LED lighting was initially expensive we were an early adopter, which no doubt contributed towards our winning of the national award, sponsored by Penguin books, for most eco-friendly bookshop.

We use eco-friendly Mac Mini computers in the bookshop and printers and monitors are shut down out of hours.


We have 2 hybrid vehicles for deliveries - one of which can be charged from our solar power.

Alternatives to our 3 other conventional vans are not yet viable - but watch this space!


If you would like more information feel free to contact me: simon@ncbc.co.uk