Striving for Sustainable Labs – Interns join the Environment Team

Daniel and Jasmin (see photo below) will be joining the Environment Team for 6 weeks this summer, as Sustainable Lab Interns.

dan Jasmin

They are going to be focusing on laboratory sustainability, specifically looking at energy usage, good practice case studies, and ways to raise awareness among regular lab users.

They hope they can put their scientific degree backgrounds – chemistry and biology, respectively – to good use, looking at ways to improve the operations that take place throughout the University’s science faculty here in St Andrews.

Crossing Scotland in an Electric Car: a How-to Guide

George King, from the University’s Environment Team, describes his experience of driving an electric car on a long distance journey. The Environment Team strive to improve the sustainability agenda across the University and St Andrews.

As an occasional driver (and one who doesn’t own a car) the prospect of driving an electric car is always exciting. Previous excursions with E-Car St Andrews have been limited to Fife to avoid the need for a re-charge. However this time I decided to venture further afield – heading west to Loch Lomond – with a group of friends in tow.

You can hire electric cars and vans across St Andrews, at affordable pay-as-you-go rates

You can hire electric cars and vans across St Andrews, at affordable pay-as-you-go rates

For those who have never set foot in an electric car (aka electric vehicles, or ‘EVs’ for short) there are a few things to consider:

  1. No jangling keys. Instead you use your membership card (credit card sized) as a key to open the car. Inside the EV there is a thicker plastic card key, which you need to insert before you press the ‘start/stop’ button. All silently of course.
  2. There are no gears. Unlike most cars in the UK, there is no need for a manual transmission and instead EVs behave like automatics. Put it into ‘Drive’ and you’re good to go.
  3. You can re-charge the vehicle in various places across Scotland and the UK. Coverage of charging points is surprisingly good and with Charge Your Car (CYC) covering 99% of them you’re sure to find somewhere to plug in. It is worth noting that charging is also free.
  4. Planning is key. As we found out planning your route is essential for longer journeys to ensure you reach a charging point in time to recharge the batteries.

For our journey we set off from St Andrews, picking up a friend in Anstruther on the way, and decided to take the slightly longer route via the Forth Road Bridge and Glasgow to put the car to the test.

We knew in advance that we couldn’t make it to our destination without charging but rather than planning charge stops beforehand, we  took the impromptu method – using the CYC app to locate a charging point, on the way.

Waiting for the last bit of charge

Almost there – just 20 more minutes for this charge in Bathgate

Once the range of the EV dropped to 15 miles the ‘range anxiety’ started to kick in, we decided it was time to look for a charger as soon as we could. After a brief navigation mishap (a pessimist may say ‘lost’) we found ourselves a vacant charger. Stopping at Bathgate for an hour, we were able leave the car to charge and use the time productively, shopping for our tea and weekend supplies while we waited.

Back on the road again, we soon arrived at our friend’s flat in Balloch, where we were staying for the weekend. It was then a matter of dropping the car off at a local point, 1 mile from the flat, to re-charge overnight.

Setting out bright and early the next morning we headed for the summit of Ben Lomond in the sunshine, struggling at first with the gradient and then, believe it or not, with the heat.

Enjoying the view from the summit of Ben Lomond

Enjoying the view from the summit of Ben Lomond

After lunch a-top the Ben, we completed the circuit route, managing a swim in Loch Lomond and a pint at a local pub before the day’s end.

On the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

We found a lovely secluded beach on the shore of Loch Lomond

The next day we had to say our goodbyes and planned our route back to St Andrews in the EV. For the return journey, we decided to go a more direct route and to charge in two short 20 minute bursts – in Stirling and Kinross. Learning from our previous mistakes we found both charging points without difficulty, giving us a brief chance to explore the outskirts of Stirling and to grab a coffee on the banks of Loch Leven.

Over the whole weekend we travelled a total of 216 miles, charged 4 times (including one overnight charge) and spent around 8 hours on the road or charging.

Our round trip route. Google predicts this round trip would take almost 6 hours in a conventional car

Our round trip route. Google predicts this round trip would take almost 6 hours in a conventional car

Although it didn’t always go to plan (when we had one), the weekend was a success and the EV certainly made the trip even more memorable – all for the right reasons.

It won’t be long before we plan our next low carbon getaway; let’s just hope another heatwave decides to join us again next time.

Electrifying talk at Lawhead Primary

Pupils at Lawhead Primary were given a talk by Dita, manager at E-car club St Andrews, and Mike from the University of St Andrews. As part of the talk they were given a demonstration of the University ‘Wee Green Machine’ and the E-Car Renault Zoe.

pic2-min

pic1-min

wee green machine-min

P2s and P5/6s at Lawhead were invited to explore the cars.

All photos reproduced have received permission from Lawhead Primary School to do so.

Students Tour Guardbridge Site

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Today we led over a dozen interested students on a special tour of the former Guardbridge paper mill, which is set to host one of the University’s two new macro scale renewable energy installations, the Guardbridge Biomass Energy Centre.

 

The second macro renewables project is Kenly Wind Farm which was recently given approval in October, 2013.

 

The Guardbridge site, located just 4 miles from St Andrews, is a former industrial paper mill which closed its doors in 2008. Soon after, the University purchased the site with designs for creating a biomass energy plant in order to reduce rising carbon emissions and ever increasing energy rates.

 

The biomass plant, currently in the design stage, will burn woodchips from the undesirables left after commercial logging sourced locally within a 50km radius. Woodchips, which absorb CO2 during their lifecycles, are burned in a boiler to heat hot water. The hot water is then pumped from Guardbridge to the University’s North Haugh campus, with only a small percentage of heat loss along the way within the insulated piping. From there the hot water is integrated into the current heating systems to provide warmth to all University buildings in that area.

 

Students saw how the biomass plant is to be fuelled from local sources of renewable waste timber, which is chipped before entering the boiler.

Students were led on a walking tour through the old paper mill buildings conducted by the University’s Environment and Energy Manager, Dr Roddy Yarr. The group saw live wood chipping as part of a noise test for the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) associated with planning permissions.

 

Dr Roddy Yarr helped explain how these facilities – once complete – will not only provide renewable energy directly to the University, but will also support the local timber industry and farmers, and set a precedent for other University and public sector bodies by demonstrating how an ambitious carbon neutral plan can be achieved in practice.

 

Judging by the success of today’s tour we are considering running another tour in semester 2 for those still interested in learning about the project up close. You can register your interest by email environment@st-andrews.ac.uk – we will be in touch with further updates.

 

Check out additional student coverage of the tour below.

 

The Saint feature article: http://www.thesaint-online.com/2013/11/estates-shows-the-the-saint-around-the-universitys-guardbridge-energy-centre/

 

The Conscious Student blog: http://theconsciousstudent.com/2013/11/21/a-tour-of-the-guardbridge-biomass-plant-site/