Creative Engineering students visit Guardbridge & Kenly

This summer, 24 students from the South China University of Technology are visiting St Andrews to take part in a three-week long course on “Creativity in Engineering”, which has a stong focus on renewables and sustainable energy practices. At the end of their three weeks, the students must present their ideas for how the University of St Andrews can reduce its non-renewable energy usage, and help us reach our ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2016!

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To help them out, David and Roddy from the Environment Team gave a presentation last week on the measures to reduce energy consumption, and the various micro and macro renewable projects that are currently ongoing within the University. The main two projects are the community wind project at Kenly Farm, and the biomass district heating project at Guardbridge, with students being offered the chance to visit these sites as part of their day out with the Environment Team.

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First up was Guardbridge, located four miles west of St Andrews, and home to a disused paper mill. During our visit the students learned more about the history of the mill, and how the existing structures are going to be integrated into the new biomass energy centre to make it as sustainable as possible.

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Using locally procured chipped wood, the new biomass boiler will annually produce 34.3 GWh of heat which will then be pumped to St Andrews via a 6km long pipeline to heat our buildings, saving 8,000 tonnes of carbon compared to our current heating process!

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After a quick tour of the buildings we headed over to Kenly Farm, a piece of land that has been owned by the university for the last 600 years, and was once home to an airfield. Although the 6 turbines have not yet been built, it was very clear that this will be an excellent site for them based on the winds we experienced on our visit! These turbines will allow the university to take control of its energy production and reduce its carbon emissions by a further 19,000 tonnes per year, bringing us even closer to carbon neutrality.

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 The students were really engaged with the topic of renewables, and asked many articulate and insightful questions throughout our day together. Needless to say, we were very impressed with their knowledge on the subject, and can’t wait to see what they come up with for their project proposals at the end of the course!

 To find out more about Guardbridge and Kenly, check out our videos here and here.

Kenly Windfarm Approval!

View of wind turbines from Boarhills.

View of wind turbines from Boarhills.

Well it’s been a long time in the coming – and finally, last friday we heard back that the University’s planning proposal for the construction of 6 wind turbines on a University-owned property at the outskirts of St Andrews has been given the go ahead by the Scottish Government.

Roddy Yarr, the University’s Environment and Energy Manager, explains the vision and the benefits that drive this project forward.

LOGO- smaller“Kenly will reduce our carbon emissions by 19,000 tonnes per annum, helping us to achieve our goal of becoming carbon neutral for energy by 2016. The wind farm will generate an inward investment of more than £20M and a community benefit of £1.2M over the life of the project. It will provide local construction and maintenance jobs and help secure jobs at the University.

“The University is also developing a low carbon energy centre at Guardbridge that will provide heat from locally sourced and sustainable biomass, solar thermal and ground sources for the North Haugh buildings and save 12,000 tonnes of carbon. These two projects are visionary and proof that we understand our responsibilities with respect to climate change and the sustainable supply and management of energy costs.

“There have been no statutory consultee objections to Kenly. It is our contention that based on the results of our Environmental Impact Assessment, Kenly complies with the Development Plan and is aligned with UK and Scottish Government energy policy. The development of a wind farm that directly powers world leading research and teaching at this University will be a step change towards protecting the institution from escalating fossil fuel prices. On this scale, it will be a first in the UK higher education sector.”

Copy of proposed windfarm layout: site plan layout f5.6 Proposed Windfarm Layout

Check out a full interview with Roddy Yarr taken back in 2011 while the planning application was still underway: http://environmentsta.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/musings-of-a-windfarmer/

Musings of a Windfarmer

In this blog Roddy Yarr (Environment and Energy Manager at the University of St Andrews) talks about his first-hand experiences working on the Kenly Wind turbine development.

Over the past year, I seem to have developed an acute ability to spot wind turbines across our landscape.  This has become a slight distraction to my family with much rolling of eyes from my kids as I list the positive benefits of wind energy.  Its my job to know about this sort of stuff but maybe I should take some time out at weekends!   It’s all because of Kenly Wind farm, part of the University’s plan to reduce carbon emissions and try to take more control of our own energy generation.  If we don’t do things like this and seek out new ways to create heat and electricity, we stand still and I am not known for standing in one place for very long.

Photomontage of proposed turbines from Boarhills

My colleagues and I have been working on the development of a wind farm at Kenly since Dec 2007, talking to neighbours, local residents and landowners about our idea for a community wind farm but in the past year, preparing for the application and doing all the environmental impact assessment work and then submitting a planning application it has all started to become a bit more real.  (View the planning application) It has been good to get all this work done, 5 volumes of an environmental statement is like doing a PhD, its easy at the start and then turns into hard work with a huge amount of emotional energy expended.  There are lots of issues to be addressed and the impact of each environmental aspect rigorously tested but now it is in the safe hands of the planners at Fife Council (greenest Council in Scotland you know).  So  my focus now is on trying to navigate the murky waters of the planning process.  Statutory consultees, whose duty it is to assess the application have all indicated that the application is materially sound from a planning point of view.  Landscape impact is perhaps the biggest issue but since the statutory bodies that are charged with stewardship of Scotland’s landscape and cultural heritage (Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Scotland) have both not objected and this is a major endorsement for Kenly.  Yes the wind turbines will be a new feature on the landscape but this is in the same way as the many polytunnels or agricultural sheds that are needed to make the countryside viable in economic and social terms.  I suppose one of the most important things for folk to understand is that this is the University doing this, not a commercial developer.  At a stroke, in a typical year, we ensure that we will produce more electricity than we use from the national grid.  Another way of looking at it is that we reduce our energy carbon emissions by 18,000 tonnes per annum or 70% of our annual energy consumption.  We take control of a large slice of our energy needs.  Our price for energy is more predictable and less subject to market forces.  The money invested in the wind farm stays in this area and doesn’t leave Scotland.

During WWII the land at Kenly was used as an air base

The University has owned the land for centuries and we want the community to benefit and remain committed to that aspect.  We want to be able invest in the community both financially through a community development trust but also by looking at things like improving the pathways that cross the farmland, by considering ways to improve cycle links between St Andrews and the farmland or creating a learning space in some of the converted farm buildings at Kenly.

So its gravy all the way then right?  Eh, not quite, our friends at RAF Leuchars (Ministry of Defence, MOD) have objected because radar and twirling wind turbine blades don’t mix.  So far they are the only statutory body to object and this is despite the fact that the airbase is supposed to be shutting and changing into an army barracks.  No more noisy jets flying round and round – ahh.  So maybe the radar will still be needed, maybe it wont.  Thing is, the MOD wont tell us that so we have to provide another radar infill just in case.  More work and expense but we soldier on (dodgy pun, apols).

My Kenly journey continues and if I was asked if I would do this all again, the answer is yes.  My job is interesting, that’s for sure.   I have learnt a lot along the way.  I know how to develop wind farms so that’s useful.   I also now know how passionate people are about landscape change and wind turbines.  I have learnt how talking to folk is best.  More recently its been fascinating to see how the University community is starting to engage with energy issues and the views that are coming across.  Speaking of views, I think I have just spotted another turbine out my window…..!

Planning application: http://planning.fife.gov.uk/online/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=LLSZUUHF0G600

I Love Kenly student campaign: www.facebook.com/ilovekenly