The Community Orchard is set within the St Ann’s Allotment site and is a lively hub of educational and community life centred on local children and families.

It was set up in September 2001 on several overgrown allotments and now has three part-time staff and a number of casual staff and volunteers and attracts around 5500 visitors each year.

The Orchard provides a safe, natural and exciting place for people to learn and explore with a focus on families with children varying in age from nurseries to secondary schools. Educational activities include gardening, construction, management and awareness of the environment and arts and crafts.

Find out more about the Community Orchard



The Community Orchard has built an off-grid straw bale building at the site. A change in use to include office work with increased occupancy meant that the existing solar photovoltaic (PV) system was not providing sufficient energy for the increased load. An enquiry was made about the energy support available through Energy for Business, the European Union funded business support project delivered by the Energy Innovation and Collaboration team at the University of Nottingham.


The Energy Innovation and Collaboration team conducted a detailed solar feasibility and load assessment for supplying power to the straw-bale building, which is used for both office work and classroom activities.

The details of the building use and issues around the unusual construction were taken into account and the final system design overview is shown below.

System Design Overview


A feasibility study and report led the Community Orchard to apply for a capital grant, also available through Energy for Business. The successful award of the grant resulted in the solar PV system being installed by local renewable energy installers T4 Sustainability in 2019. The PV system was commissioned in early 2019 and has been functioning efficiently and as predicted ever since.




The support provided enabled the Community Orchard to expand existing sustainable technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the usability of the site. They now produce their own green energy and have added to their already excellent credentials as an innovative low-carbon community project. They are able to run more activities at the site even when the weather is bad and when the days are shorter during winter.

The changes implemented will also result in significant cost savings, better utilisation of the buildings at the site, as well as a greenhouse gas reduction of around 0.25 tonnes per annum. 

Jenny Butcher of the Community Orchard commented, "Our fantastic new solar system is a source of great interest and education to our young visitors, much discussion and learning has ensued. The installation has expanded no end the potential use for the building through the seasons and for different activities; from school sessions to AGM’S to Volunteers Christmas parties. The support and knowledge of the Energy Innovation and Collaboration team was wonderful and sent the whole project from pipe dream to tangible reality. Thank you!"


Community Orchard received support from the University as part of Energy for Business. Delivered by the Energy Innovation and Collaboration team and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Contact the Energy Innovation and Collaboration team for an informal chat about the support on offer.

Phone: +44 (0) 115 7484969