Hall vs Hall – Interhall Energy Competition and the Champion’s League

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Now that you’re all settled into your halls of residence, hopefully you’ll have discovered that the St Andrews residences come with a great deal of hall pride. What better way to show off this hall spirit than by pitting each hall against each other in a fierce (but friendly) competition!?

I am, of course, talking about the Interhall Energy Competition – a chance for halls to compete to win £150 for their committee’s funds each month by making the most energy savings relative to their target. The target is set based on how much energy your hall used that month in previous years, and adjusted to take account of any improvements that have been made (such as installing low energy lights or boiler improvements).

So how can you help your hall win?

– Turn lights out when you leave the room (or if the sun comes out!)
– Switch off electrical appliances when you have finished using them
– Don’t over fill the kettle if you’re only making one cuppa
– Put on a jumper (or a suitably cool alternative!)
– Turn radiators off if you open a window
– Participate in energy reduction activities organised by your hall’s Environment Rep
– Check out our list of even more helpful tips on how to reduce your energy consumption in halls

How can you check your progress?

– View your hall’s energy consumption LIVE
– Like the Interhall Energy Competition Facebook Page to check the monthly results

hall champions leagueIt’s not all about energy though…

On top of the Interhall Energy Competition results, the Hall Sports League and Hall Charities Competition results are combined to produce the Hall Champion’s League – a way of rewarding halls for not only their performance, but also their participation.

Points are awarded to your hall for raising money, saving energy, and winning games, but points are also awarded for halls which host a lot of charitable events, run environmental campaigns, and enter teams into sports fixtures. It’s not all about winning after all!

At the end of the year the hall with the most cumulative points for charititable fundraising, energy saving, and sports success is presented with the Hall Champion’s League trophy, and the satisfaction of knowing their hall is the best!

If you want to find out more about the Interhall Energy Challenge (or the Hall Champion’s League) then get in touch by emailing interhall@st-andrews.ac.uk, or tweet us on our shiny new Twitter account: @interhallenergy

Green Societies Guide

10458859_693481564069381_2113089142360349256_nIf you missed all the fun of the (Big Green) Fair on Monday, then don’t worry – there are still plenty of opportunities to meet the green societies and groups based in St Andrews. Check out our previous blog post for the full Freshers’ event line-up, or keep reading for our run-down of the different groups St Andrews has to offer – there really is something for everyone!

Animal Welfare Society

524962_147884018691164_2139361533_nThe Animal Welfare Society (AWSoc) are dedicated to the wellbeing and fair treatment of all animal kind. The society  campaigns against cruelty to animals and supports animal-friendly alternatives. The society also volunteers and fundraises for local shelters, and host regular documentary nights.

Check out their website and Facebook page to get involved.

Bike Pool Group

fd3c2f_8542d1b388d71c462639b8017a265d28.png_srz_1800_1200_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzThe Bike Pool are a community Group with a three-part program:
1. To operate as a skill share, primarily of bike repair and maintenance skills
2. To refurbish abandoned/donated bicycles so they can be put back into circulation in the local community
3. To promote cycling within our community as a healthy and sustainable form of transportation

Join their Facebook group to find out more information about the group and upcoming maintenance sessions.

Carbon Conversations

coffee-cup-image-300x212Carbon Conversations are a unique and inspiring series of 6 group discussions, and are cited as one of the top solutions to climate change. The sessions involve group activities, knowledge-building, idea-sharing and reflections, where participants will have the opportunity to explore climate change both practically and emotionally.

Sign up for a series of sessions here.

Edible Campus

1969157_366580283485024_996722225_nThe Edible Campus project aims to reinvigorate our skills, knowledge and interest in eating more locally whilst increasing the amount of food growing within the University grounds for the benefit of students, staff and the wider community. There are over 10 different Edible Campus food growing spaces across town, and everyone is welcome to get involved – whether you’re a keen gardener or have never planted anything before!

Check out the Edible Campus webpage, like their Facebook page or join the Facebook group for more info!

Environment Team (that’s us!)

1465925_609448629115878_1841238397_oWe manage issues affecting the University that relate to sustianable development, including carbon emissions, biodiversity, waste reduction, transportation and resource use. We use this blog to engage with students to provide information on upcoming events and opportunities to get involved in making St Andrews a more sustainable place to live, work, and study.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with events, and drop us an email (environment@st-andrews.ac.uk) or check out our website for practical information regarding sustainable travel, food, energy use, the local environment, and waste management.

Fairtrade Steering Group

FairtradeLogoWhiteThe Fairtrade Steering Group promotes the use of Fairtrade products across campus and works on Fairtrade initiatives. The group also organises events for Fairtrade Fortnight, which takes place in semester 2 with Fairtrade wine tasting, bake sales, talks, visits to local schools, and the ever-popular Fairtrade Cook-Off!

Like their Facebook page or email fairtrade@st-andrews.ac.uk to get involved!

Greenpeace St Andrews

profile_img1_greenpeaceGreenpeace exists because this fragile earth deserves a voice. It needs solutions. It needs change. It needs action. If you like a good project and a good cause, join Greenpeace. The group encourage you to join the action and the fun in any of their weekly meetings, street campaigns, actions or socials!

Find them on Facebook or Twitter to start getting involved.

OneWorld Society

50494_35775563516_9171_nOneWorld campaigns on human rights, poverty, and the environment as part of People and Planet (the largest UK student campaigning network). They also organise numerous events and run the VegBox scheme.

Join the OneWorld Facebook group, or the VegBox group to find out more.

Saint Exchange

10460451_318878784943846_5836232256016066555_nSaint Exhange is a local trading scheme allowing people to trade locally in and around St Andrews. The scheme allows local residents to join for free and trade goods/skills/services using “Saints”.  By measuring trades using “Saints”, the scheme provides a service whereby members can share skills and talents that they enjoy and thus earn Saints, which they can spend them on the things that they want or need from other members.

To sign up, check out their website and Facebook page.

St Andrews Environmental Network (StAndEn)

10455322_738217186201162_6047836635977374219_nStAndEn is a community-led energy saving project, which aims to help you reduce CO2 emissions and cut household fuel bills through simple low cost steps. If you live in private rented accommodation, they can do a free home energy assessment and tell you how you can make savings.

For more information check out their website and Facebook page.

St AndRe-Use

10154342_1380538758895673_1145329313350358460_nSt AndRe-Use is a student organised reuse scheme in St Andrews. They collect, sort, and give away all donated items for free! St AndRe-Use set up donation points across campus during exam and graduation weeks. They save the environment, space and your sanity from the burden of too much stuff!

 To get involved check out their webpage, or join the Facebook group to start claiming and giving away items!

Sustainability Society

1047963_1474211176126570_1312490545_oThe Sustainability Society’s mission is to raise the awareness about sustainability issues amongst St Andrews students, and are dedicated to making St Andrews as sustainable as possible. The society undertakes academic, social, and practical activities to implement sustainability at all scales – from organising seminars to practical action.

Join in and find out more by visiting their Facebook page.

Transition University of St Andrews

466289_251323201618555_1429781240_oTransition University of St Andrews is part of a global movement responding to the threats of climate change and resource depletion. Transition works on practical projects that help communities become more self-sufficient, minimises environmental impacts, and strengthens community ties.

To get involved email transition@st-andrews.ac.uk or explore the many projects on their website and Facebook page.

Veg Soc

10177317_762903493729892_1990981121759130606_nDo you love to eat and cook veggie and vegan food? Then this is the society for you! Join them for veggie feasts, potlucks, parties, picnics, trips and more. Everyone is welcome – no politics, just food.

Join VegSoc on Facebook to keep up to date with their events.

Wildlife & Conservation Society

seal10Interested in wildlife and conservation? This society holds events such as presentations, documentary screenings, moth trapping, bat tracking, local conservation work, and more!

Go wild and find out more on Facebook.

Most of these groups will have a stall at the Freshers’ Fayre (Sunday 12th Sept, 10-4 in Venue 1) so if any take your fancy then head along to find out more, and sign up to start getting involved in creating a greener St Andrews!

MUSA: Sustainability in Practice

The University of St Andrews is well known for its research and teaching in Sustainable Development, but it’s not just the students that are benefitting from the University’s commitment to sustainability. As one of the most publicly accessible University buildings, the Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA), is extending the sustainability teaching beyond the classroom by showcasing its eco-credentials to the general public.

P1060479 The Museum of the University of St Andrews
 

First opened in 2008 to display the treasures of the last 600 years of the University, MUSA has worked from the very beginning to ensure that these precious historical collections are housed in a way that is as sustainable as possible. As the chosen location for the museum is a coach house from the 1860s, and a grade 2 listed building, certain restrictions were in place when planning the extension to the gallery space. The requirements of the collections were also taken into consideration during the planning process, and a pitched roof was added into the design in order to accommodate a large stained-glass window.

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 The large, stained-glass window on display.
 

As luck would have it, this roof design is ideal for hosting solar panels, which are used to provide power for the lights and lift in the building. The panels are easily viewed from the rooftop terrace (along with a stunning view of West Sands beach), and are accompanied by a graphic panel explaining the energy saving measures in place at MUSA, as well as an energy display meter. The roofing slates were recycled from another building, and the majority of materials used in this development were also locally sourced to further reduce the footprint of this extension.

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Solar panels and energy display meter.
 

The museum’s commitment to sustainability has not impacted on the care of the exhibits inside, on the contrary, some of the energy-saving measures in place actually help protect the collections! The ground source heat pump extracts heat from the rock beneath the car park through three 67m deep boreholes, then heats the galleries via underfloor coils. This method of heat distribution not only saves 9 tonnes of COannually, but also ensures heating is evenly distributed throughout the building, preventing the formation of “hotspots”, and meaning artworks can be hung anywhere on the gallery walls. Likewise, the use of low energy LED bulbs are not only more economical, but also prevent the build up of heat within display cases.

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Visitor’s information panel on MUSA’s renewable energy.
 

On top of these large-scale measures, MUSA also keeps an up-to-date green noticeboard, organises green family-orientated events for the local community, and grows its own fruit in the front courtyard. From these efforts, it is clear to see why the museum achieved such a high rating in the Green Tourism Awards. MUSA is a shining example of sustainability in practice in St Andrews, and thoroughly deserve their gold award.

Click here for more information about visiting MUSA.

Gold Green Tourism Award for MUSA

The Museum of the University of St Andrews, more commonly referred to as “MUSA”,  recently received a visit from the Green Tourism Award assessors. We’ve been waiting with baited breath since July to hear the result, and can now proudly announce that they’ve been awarded a GOLD!

This is a fantastic achievement, and highlights the University’s commitment to environmental excellence and sustainability in practice. With a whole host of eco-credentials, including solar panels, a fantastic selection of green community outreach events, and a ground source heat pump (more on these in the next blog post!) it’s great to see these efforts being recognised for their impacts on sustainable tourism in St Andrews.

P1060479MUSA joins three halls of residence which also hold a Gold Green Tourism Award: Macintosh Hall, Agnes Blackadder Hall, and David Russell & Fife Park Apartments. The Environment Team was very excited to receive the news of yet another Gold Award, and hope this will encourage other local tourist attractions to become certified!

Look out for our next post which will showcase MUSA’s energy saving measures!

 To learn more about the Green Tourism Business Scheme click here.

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.

What Happens To Our Food Waste?

The environment team visits the anaerobic digestor that turns our food waste into biogas

“Like a stomach”… is how our guide, Alan, describes the anaerobic digestion process that is used to break down our food waste into biogas, liquid fertilizer and nutrient-rich compost.

Standing next to the tall, twin vessel AD (anaerobic digestion) plant operated by TEG in Glenfarg, on the border of Fife and Perth and Kinross councils, I listen as Alan elaborates. He explains how organic matter – our potato peelings and plate scrapings – are broken down by anaerobic bacteria under controlled temperatures in much the same way food is processed in our stomachs. If the AD plant is not ‘fed’ properly (eg, with food waste with too high a carbon content) the process will be disrupted. Yes, I get it, like a stomach!

It takes only 60 days for food waste to be processed in this way starting from the time of collection at recycling points across the University of St Andrews, to the electricity generated and sent straight to the grid by using the biogas to power a generator. With the anaerobic process monitored and controlled to produce a constant supply of 40-65% rich CH4 (methane) gas, which would otherwise have escaped from a landfill site if not recovered, our food waste is being utilised as a clean energy resource. Now that’s impressive!

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A view of the twin anaerobic digestors which are responsible for the natural break down of food waste and capture of biogas.

Here at the University we’ve been composting our raw (uncooked) food waste in a small in-vessel composter, affectionately known as “Hamish”, since 2007. Now, as of January 1st 2014, TEG’s AD plant processes the remaining food waste from our student catered halls, our retail outlets and delivered catering in special green collection bins. This is in line the with the Waste Scotland regulations that stipulate all businesses must recycle food waste produced, prepared or distributed in excess of 50 kg per week by catering units.

Recycle your food waste in these specially marked green bins. For full details of what can and cannot be recycled, please visit X.

Recycle your food waste in these specially marked green bins. For full details of what can and cannot be recycled, please visit our recycling webpages.

TEG’s massive twin-chambered AD plant is rather unique. Designed to collect a wide range of food waste  – including meat products – TEG was the 1st plant licensed for operation after the foot & mouth scandal which saw much stricter legislation come into effect in 2003. Since then, TEG has been well underway converting the food we chuck out into useful natural bi-products. These include nutrient rich compost and liquid fertiliser for use by local farms, as well as biogas for generating electricity.

We visited the site in early January to see exactly how an anaerobic digestion system works.

BinWaste AD in a nutshell diagram

A simplified version of the anaerobic digestion process.

The process begins when food waste is collected here in St Andrews by special food waste collection vehicles. The food waste then travels a mere 26 miles to TEG’s plant located in Glenfarg at the edge of Fife where it undergoes de-packaging and pre-treatment. This is when any unwanted plastic, metal, or other non-food materials are screened and sent through their own recycling systems. At this point, it is absolutely crucial that any non-food items are kept out of the AD process. Glass, cutlery and fabric clothe are notable offenders that can severely damage the pre-screening machinery – ever more reason to make sure we only dispose of food waste in the correct collection bins!

Rather than ending up in a Fife Council landfill near Ladybank, our food waste is transported to TEG's recycling facilities located just 26 miles away.

Rather than ending up in a Fife Council landfill near Ladybank, our food waste is transported to TEG’s recycling facilities located just 26 miles away.

After pre-screening is complete the food waste enters two large containers where the anaerobic digestion process occurs. In this oxygen-less environment, food waste is churned around in a digestive “soup”, where it is broken down by natural bacteria and releases gases that rise to the surface. These gases are then collected and stored in an expandable gas holder for later use as fuel for powering an electric generator.

The “soup” which is still inside the anaerobic containers is then pumped through a pasteurisation system and separated into dry and wet components. Dry components are mixed with garden waste and aged as nutrient-rich compost. Wet components are stored as liquid biofertiliser and sold to local farms as an alternative to petrochemical fertilisers.

In the end, the nutrient and calorific values of ordinary food waste is converted into three highly useful products without producing any further environmentally damaging outputs. No further pollution or un-used waste sent to landfill. Now that is worth being excited about! 

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Food waste is pre-screened before entering the anaerobic digestion system.

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Plastics are removed and sent to recycling facilities located just down the road.

After completion of the anaerobic digestion process, biogas is collected in an expandable container.

After completion of the anaerobic digestion process, biogas is collected in an expandable container.

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Liquid contents are separated and sold to local farmers as a liquid biofertiliser alternative to petrochemical fertilisers (seen here at the pumping station).

Dry matter can be seen here on it's way to maturation in a storage building where it will become high grade garden compost.

Dry matter can be seen here on it’s way to maturation in a storage building where it will become high grade garden compost.

A view of the nearby plastic, metal, and paper recycling facilities which sort and bale these resources for future use.

A view of the nearby plastic, metal, and paper recycling facilities which sort and bale these resources for future use.

It’s sobering to remember that this process all begins back home in our kitchens and halls of residence. We can improve this cycle of reusing food waste in a local, environmentally friendly way by following these 3 simple reminders.

  1. Think before you toss out uneaten food. Can this be used as leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch? Do I need to plan my portion sizes smaller?
  2. Plan before you shop. Don’t buy too much before you can reasonably eat it before the sell by date.
  3. Read directions. Please, please, please only put food waste into the food waste bins! Take a closer look at the instructions for what can and cannot be place in the bins, and ask if your uncertain.

For more information about reducing food waste and healthy cooking visit Love Food Hate Waste, Transition UOSA Cooksmarter and Fife Diet websites.

For more information relating to the recycling facilities provided at the University, please visit our waste and recycling pages.

Students Tour Future Guardbridge Biomass Energy Centre

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The Guardbridge site includes many former buildings used in the paper milling process which will be converted into a biomass energy centre.

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.

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Dr Roddy Yarr explains plans for the site before leading students around existing buildings.

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.

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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.

Logs of little use for making timber products are perfect for chipping and fuelling a biomass plant.

Logs of little use for making timber products are perfect for chipping and fuelling a biomass plant.

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/

Interhall Energy Competition 2013/14

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Energy data

Graph showing one-month energy data (Albany Park) which is used to determine the monthly winners of the competition – can you spot the peak in energy consumed over each 24hr period?

For the past 7 years, the students and staff of St Andrews have been doing their part to reduce the energy consumed in student accommodation via the Inter-Hall Energy Competition. The combined actions of 3,500 students really can make a big difference to our carbon footprint  where over 7,500 tonnes of carbon were associated with Halls’ energy consumption in 2012/13 alone.

Foortpint of waste

Click to view the 7,510 tonnes of carbon associated with halls’ energy consumption in 2012/13

How does it work? Each hall has a monthly target energy consumption which is based on how much energy was used that month in previous years. We are now recording gas and water in addition to electricity consumption this year. The hall that makes the most savings relative to their target each month wins £150 towards their hall committee funds – this means the only thing stopping your hall from winning month after month is how well the other halls are doing!

How do I help my hall win? Your hall environment rep will be able to point out ways you can save energy and water in your particular hall. These general actions are always a good start:

  • Turn lights out when you leave the room (or if the sun comes out!)
  • Switch off electrial appliances when you have finished using them
  • Don’t over fill the kettle if you only want 1 drink
  • Put on a jumper or other warm clothes
  • Turn radiators off if you open a window
  • Use less water while washing up; report taps that keep running when turned off

How is my hall doing? View your hall’s realtime energy consumption here on our online energy monitors. Your environment reps have access to an interactive energy data system that allows for a better understanding of the peak energy times during the week. Also, make sure to like the Facebook Page where we will post the monthly results and winners.

Email the St Andrews Environmental Network at info@standrewsenergy.org

What if I live in a private flat? That’s great, you will get to keep all the savings you make, through lower bills. Have a look at the Energy Saving Trust website for some hints and tips. More help is at hand from our partners, St Andrews Environmental Network (StAndEN), who can pop round to your flat to carry our an energy audit (it’s free) and offer you tailored advice.

Energy use is a massive part of the solution to climate change but there are a lot more benefits that being energy efficient can bring you. Students can save money, keep warm and increase comfort and wellbeing. Get involved with the most active environmental group in St Andrews, Transition, to make an even greater difference to community sustainability.

To see what the University is already doing about reducing energy consumption across all buildings and departments view their Environment and Sustainability pages 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/

Electric Vehicles Impress

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Front profile of the new Nissan Leaf EV

What would your commute feel like in an electric vehicle?

To find out the answer I met with the University’s Electrochemistry PhD researcher Euan McTurk to discuss his vintage Peugeot 106 electric vehicle (“EV” to the uninitiated) which he has been using on his commute from Dundee to St Andrews.

After thirteen years of TLC his 106 still works like a charm, and surprisingly, is very fast off the line! Recently he replaced the original nickel-cadmium battery with a new lithium ion pack which takes him 60 miles per charge – well more than enough to cover the distance there and back.  Euan had the option to fit larger pack that offers a range of over 100 miles but found that the smaller pack was sufficient for his needs.

Euan discusses ‘EV etiquette’, a phase he uses to refer to the particular issues of being an EV owner. For example, while out on our test drive around town, we stopped at the new electric charging station in Argyle Streetcar park. With only two available spaces for electric vehicles at the charger, Euan reminds me that EV users must be respectful of others and avoid parking at public chargers for longer than they need to so as not to cause others to wait at the charger for extended periods. This is only rarely an issue however, as I soon learn that a rapid charger can replenish a battery in as little as 20 minutes – comparable even to waiting in line at a petrol station!

“Nissan Leaf – best car I’ve ever driven”

Euan has a passion for all things electric and is quick to update me on the improvements in EV technology and design since his 106 version originally came out in 1995. While a number of new models are in production, Euan highly recommends the Nissan Leaf line which comes equipped with the latest comforts and tech – compromising nothing, while gaining impressive EV credentials that blow hybrids out of the water! In fact the fellow EV we met at the charging point was one of a fleet of Nissan Leafs used by Fife Council.

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The new electric charging point for St Andrews located in Argyle Street carpark

Why choose an electric vehicle?

With no operating pollution from exhaust (thus no emissions of CO2, nitrogen and sulphur oxides, or other gases emitted by a convenient petrol engine that contribute to global warming, smog, and pollution), and no reliance on fossil fuels (if using renewably sourced electricity) and the economic and political controversies associated with oil production, EV’s are one of the greenest forms of transport. These are huge benefits that if replicated on a large scale have the potential for making a dramatic influence on society-wide ecological and carbon footprints.

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Electrochemistry PhD researcher Euan McTurk takes us for a testride in his vintage Peugeot 106 electric vehicle

Top tips for going electric

During my hour with Euan I realised there are few downsides to EV’s and many benefits. Here are some to keep in mind when you consider test driving an EV for your next car!

Pros

  • Excellent environmental credentials: Euan reckons that even the footprint of building and running a new EV is several tonnes less than the footprint of using an existing petrol car over the 8+yrs of the EV battery’s lifetime,
  • Great new models to choose from with all the latest comforts and tech,
  • Falling prices of EV’s as the market increases and technology improves,
  • Better technology, especially with regards to battery lifetime and charge – meaning you can go further, recharge quicker, and increase overall efficiency.
  • Vastly reduced running costs versus petrol and diesel cars; Euan’s commute, which uses 100% electricity from renewable energy, costs £1 per day, saving him £700 a year on fuel costs alone, and more when you factor in the free car tax and reduced maintenance bills!

Cons

  • Cost is generally higher than a similarly designed petrol car (e.g. a new Nissan Leaf goes for c£17,000) but prices are expected to continue decreasing,
  • EV’s can only take you so far before needing a recharge; luckily this is getting easier and easier as batteries become more efficient, more charging points become available (like our new charge point in St Andrews), and rapid chargers decrease charging times.  Additionally, some manufacturers give EV buyers the opportunity to borrow a petrol or diesel car for a few days a year to cover the odd trip that is outwith the range of the EV.

If you, or a friend, commute with an EV please let me know – I would love to hear about your experiences as well! (contact directly at environment@st-andrews.ac.uk)

For the latest on EV news, charging point locations, and reviews visit EV Association Scotland at http://www.eva-scotland.org/.