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:

I Love Kenly student campaign:

Behind the Scenes at Raisin

Did you participate in the Foam fight on Raisin Monday? We did! Every year, the University helps to organise this bizarre, unique, exhilarating tradition that is so unusual we are broadcast around the world. From the Students’ Association to Health and Safety to Estates and the Environment Team, there is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into making this day run smoothly….

After a briefing with bacon rolls and hot coffee, we set off to man our posts. The Environment Team and the Grounds staff organize two full size skips to take away the Raisin Receipts that are brought to the quad. Binn Skips, the company used, will recycle over 90% of this material after it is picked up! This is through a sorting and ‘dirty MRF’ (materials recovery facility) process, where rubbish is sorted at a plant to recover all possible recyclates, including wood, metals, plastic, paper and card, and tyres.

Years ago the amount of rubbish generated at Raisin was no way near what it is today, but these days with so many more students and ambitious academic parents these skips are nearly completely full by noon! Students are so creative these days we were very pleasantly surprised when the first students on site this year had real raisins as their receipts! Notable items that came through this year included:



the most massive blue balloon that popped on a low hanging branch…

the Mystery Machine…

a number of impressive thrones…

and even a wooden shackle rack…

Each year, we try to encourage academic parents to be creative with their Raisin receipts in terms of keeping the environment in mind, because essentially all the hard work of the academic parents ends up in the skip… As you can see, all sorts of things end up in there! We are very pleased that students are so keen to work with us to ensure that the Raisin foam fight is a success for all.

We even got to enjoy some of the receipts left with us!



After all the hard work, the Environment Team went through to the quad to join the rest of Estates and watch the foam fight…

And witnessed Helen Mackie, Assistant Director of Estates, welcoming one of the newest members of Estates, Beth Robinson, Health and Safety Officer.








Beth really enjoyed being ‘Mackied’…

Patrick O’Hare, Students’ Association President, even managed to get David Stutchfield, Energy Officer, and Barbara Aitken, Environment Officer!








(Wanted: For Foaming the Environment Team.)





Here is the before and after of the quad!

After all the fun, all the helpers chipped in together to clean up the mess. The SRC organized a brilliant clean up with student volunteers as did the Kate Kennedy Club.

And as the Environment Team left for the day and headed back to the office, the Grounds Department came out in full force to return the quad to normality.

Thank you all for a wonderful, smooth Raisin Foam Fight 2011, we look forward to seeing you next year!

See Bubble TV’s video on Raisin to see some of  our staff members!

BSRC Building Receives A Energy Rating

The New Biomedical Sciences Research Centre (BSRC) has been awarded an A-rated energy performance certificate.

The BSRC, on which construction was recently completed, is a world-class research facility. This means that is it an energy intensive building, and so the achievement of an A-rating energy performance certificate is very unusual and a great achievement. The A-rating is the University’s first energy award of this level.

The construction of the BSRC followed strict environmental guidelines, and as a result is highly energy efficient, built with recycled materials, and houses a combined heat and power system (CHP).

At the University of St Andrews, every new build that has been constructed since 2010 follows a very high environmental standard in accordance with our Sustainable Design Guide (here). All new buildings are built to the specifications of BREEAM Excellent, a national green building classification.

University Purchases 100% Electric Vehicle

Did you know that the University of St Andrews has a 100% electric vehicle? No, neither did I until someone told me about the Mega. But it’s true, Grounds has been using an electric vehicle around campus to help out with the maintenance of the estate and gardens since February 2009. We have been leasing it for years, but have recently found funding to finally purchase our little van!

Here is what it looks like now….

A great concept, but it looks a little boring and nondescript, right? Well the Environment Team is hatching plans to brighten up our Wee Green Machine. Keep your eyes peeled for updates.