Renewables handbook

The Renewable Energy Handbook helps you to:

  • Learn the fundamentals of renewable energy generation
  • Explore and discuss the range of technologies and options available to your community
  • Evaluate which technologies or options may be appropriate for your community
  • Identify and access valuable online resources for further information and advice

It discusses the technologies that have been employed by community groups across Scotland. The principles of how each technology works is provided along with the key issues regarding installation and operation as well as environmental impacts.

The Handbook is intended as an introductory text, covering the main aspects and issues that need to be considered for each of the technologies listed above.


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Biomass heating is the combustion of a biomass fuel -such as wood in a boiler- to supply space heating and hot water. Biomass fuel is biological in origin and, when from sustainable sources, is regarded as renewable.

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Heat Pumps

Heat pumps extract low-grade energy from the environment and convert it into usable energy at a higher temperature suitable for space and water heating.

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Hydroelectricity involves the conversion of potential energy stored in water held at a height to kinetic energy to drive a mechanical shaft which then drives an electric generator.

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Solar Panel

Photovoltaic (PV) technology involves the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity. Solar PV technology uses solar cells, which are grouped together in panels, to produce electricity when exposed to sunlight. Because PV relies on solar irradiation, solar PV provides electricity during the day, with maximum output in summer days. Inverters are an essential component for PV systems, as the inverter converts direct current (DC) from the panels to alternate current (AC) compatible with grid standards. The remaining system components are cabling, switches and meters.

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Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heaters collect energy from the sun and use this to heat water for use in buildings – they are rarely used to provide space heating. On average, systems will provide around 50% of the energy required to deliver hot water, allowing for heat losses from stored water (this is known as the solar fraction).

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A wind turbine produces electricity by capturing wind energy. The natural power of the wind makes its blades turn and the turning then drives a generator. The energy content of the wind is very dependent on the wind speed.

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