Solar Tree

DIY Solar: community-fuelled renewable energy

Aug 8, 2017 - 3min read

Demand Energy Equality (DEE) is a remarkable organisation committed to educating and motivating people to become involved in renewable energy projects – as individuals and as communities.

From freely dispensing the knowledge needed to generate off-grid renewable energy, to building a giant tree with solar-panelled leaves in Bristol town centre, DEE uses both large and small initiatives as a means of promoting energy literacy and driving a sustainable energy transition.

Through two workshops – one teaching how to handmake your own solar panels in a day, the other introducing the concept of off-grid energy – DEE gives participants the necessary building blocks to gain greater independence from the national supply.

Their larger projects create an intersection between art and renewable energy, uniting communities to build solar-powered technologies that ultimately benefit the local area.


DIY solar panels:

In this full-day workshop, DEE teaches participants how to build their own 12W photovoltaic solar panels that they can use to recharge their electrical devices.

Build Solar Panel

DEE supply the recycled solar cells needed to build the charger, while teaching participants how to test and connect the solar panels, and how to use them to power appliances.

DIY Solar Panels

Participants gain a greater understanding of the problems facing the UK energy industry, alongside comprehensive tuition about some of the possible solutions. And all this knowledge is scalable – it is the starting point for anyone interested in building solar arrays for their own off-grid energy system.

Off-grid design:

This half-day workshop gives participants a grounding in the electrical basics: current, voltage, resistance, power, and series and parallel circuits…then take ideas a step further with lessons on how to connect solar panels, batteries, charge controllers, battery guards and appliances to form an off-grid network.

Off Grid DesignIan Westmoreland – projects manager & director at DEE.

A combination of practical exercises and accessible learning combine to teach participants about the value around connecting solar panels to a battery in your home as a means of cheaply powering appliances.

Off Grid Design

Participants come away with a much greater understanding of how renewable energy can offer greater control of your power supply.


Mobile solar power:

The mobile solar project sees the lessons from the off-grid design and DIY solar workshops writ large, benefiting communities by using clean energy to power outdoor events, festivals and parties.

Mobile Solar

Partnering with South East London Community Energy, DEE built a trailer that carries 1050W of solar array input, and incorporates a power storage system with an integrated LCD visual interface. The solar input and output information is streamed to an online portal in real time, where the system activity is available for everyone to see.

Mobile Solar

A relatively affordable and far more environmentally friendly alternative to noisy, dirty diesel generators, this innovative onsite renewable power network promotes a clean energy message wherever it goes.

Energy Trees:

The grandest of DEE’s projects are its Energy Trees. The most recent was built in Bristol’s Millennium Square in 2015, and was an ambitious cross between a practical art project, source of renewable energy and inspirational testament to solar power.

Energy Tree Welding

Teaming up with local artist John Packer to design and build the 20ft metal sculpture, and the Bristol Drugs Project who funded and crafted the tree’s 36 solar photovoltaic panels (or ‘leaves’), the Bristol Energy Tree is a true triumph of community spirit. It engages the public with the idea of renewable energy, while also providing a positive outlet for people combating drug and alcohol use.

Energy Tree Build

The power collected from the solar ‘leaves’ is stored in batteries that form the tree’s ‘roots’, and the sculpture provides wifi and phone charging to members of the public. A celebration of the value of working together to effect positive change in society, the Energy Tree is a timely embodiment of the community energy movement’s potential.


All of the DEE’s workshop guides and instructions are available for free as downloadable guides, encouraging others to run energy workshops using their materials as well.

DEE’s projects manager and director, Ian Westmoreland, says, “At Demand Energy Equality we’re committed to helping people learn how our energy system works and showing just how accessible renewable energy can be, so they can make informed decisions about energy consumption. We believe this will help ensure fair access to transitional technologies and drive an overall reduction in energy demand.”

Ultimately, Demand Energy Equality recognises that meaningful change will only be achieved by fostering a more engaged relationship between energy users and their energy supply – a position that chimes very closely with ours.

Meaningfully change your energy supply.