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/.

Cycletricity 2013

Cycletricity 2013

We had initially planned for Cycletricity to fit in with the St Andrews Green Week in March but had to postpone the event due to snow! However, the sports clubs came back after the Easter break rejuvenated, ready to pedal and the snow had long gone.

After some testing of the  4 bikes and generating equipment by the Saints Sport Team, 15 sports clubs then battled it out to see who could generate the most power (in watt hours). They each had 20 minutes to cycle as hard as possible to turn the generator and create electricity. The electricity they created was then used to charge the University’s electric vehicle, the Wee Green Machine (seen in the back left of the photo below)! The idea of the whole event was to raise awareness of clean, renewable energy and the projects and opportunities for this in St Andrews. Church Square provided the perfect location for this and we had lots of interest from passers-by who were not deterred by the roar of the bikes.

As the day progressed various tactics emerged, some clubs brought enough people to switch cyclists every 2 minutes (or so it seemed) whereas others opted for the ‘slow and steady wins the race’ approach with just one person on each bike for the whole 20 minutes. Overall winners were Men’s Rugby who were extremely competitive and showed up with about 20 people, beating Triathlon into 2nd place by a huge margin! Everyone who took part did a fantastically well but there are a few special mentions… First to Volleyball who generously allowed a small boy watching to have a go on one of their bikes thus forfeiting some power but getting top ‘community engagement’ points. Also to Boat club who only had 2 people for the entire 20 minutes but still managed to finish in the top half, huge commitment in their lycra rowing gear too! Finally, Cycling had 1 person for each bike for the duration but demonstrated their thigh power by finishing high on the leader board, just after the big teams.

Results Table

Position Club Total watt hours generated No. of people
1 Men’s Rugby 95.2 20
2 Triathlon 63.1 8
3 Men’s Football 61 12
4 Cycling 53.1 4
5 Canoe 43.2 6
6 Boat 34.3 2
7 Swimming 27.5 5
8 Athletics and XC 22.5 4
9 Hockey 16.8 9
10 Women’s Shinty 16.2 8
11 Tennis 11.7 3
12 Women’s Lacrosse 10.4 6
13 Lifesaving 9.9 4
14 Women’s Football 8.5 4
15 Volleyball 6.1 4

Check out http://www.facebook.com/EnvironmentStA for more photos.

Huge thanks to all the clubs who took part, we hope you enjoyed it!

Also thanks go to the University Physics Dept. for building the generating equipment and bike stands, to Transition University of St Andrews for their support and to Emily Griffiths, AU President, without them this event would not have happened.

Looking forward to next year!

Sarah Duley, Environment Team, Estates (environment@st-andrews.ac.uk)

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Cycling Club

University Building Receives Top Green Award

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The BSRC (Biomolecular Sciences Research Complex) has recently been awarded a top green honour.

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The state-of-the-art lab which houses researchers from Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Biology has received an ‘Outstanding’ rating from BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). It is the first ‘Outstanding’ laboratory in the UK and the first ‘Outstanding’ building in Scotland.

The BSRC has been recognised for its cutting edge sustainability credentials and its ability to divert building and energy costs into research. The building opened in December 2011 and has since been facilitating the research of around a dozen research groups with varying interests including disease, infection and immunity.

The BREEAM certification is designed to identify sustainable buildings by assessing their design, construction and operation.

The building was designed by bmj architects along the University Estates department to; minimise solar gain, include natural ventilation, have a thermal fabric, reduce air infiltration, be energy efficient and use a matrix of sustainable materials for construction. In addition the building was designed with provision of cycle racks, showers & lockers, a green travel plan, landscaping and ecology and recyclable waste storage as high priorities.

The construction of the building was undertaken by Sir Robert McAlpine. They produced some fantastic results, putting the sustainable designs into reality whilst also recycling a fantastic 92.7% of all their construction waste!

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Below is an image of the inside of the new labs before the building was opened.

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Now fully functionally, here’s what it looks like!

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Wee Green Machine Unveiling

Yesterday was the Wee Green Machine Unveiling Ceremony. The three kids with winning designs were finally able to see their artwork on the side of the van.

The three winners test driving the Wee Green Machine.

Read the whole story about the art competition in our previous blog.

Rowan and his design.

 

Archie and his design.

Georgia and her design.

Watch the unveiling here.

The Environment Team was excited to see the kids being so proud about their designs on the Wee Green Machine.

The Environment Team was excited to see the kids being so proud about their designs on the Wee Green Machine.

The Wee Green Machine now has it’s own profile on Facebook. Add it and if you spot the Wee Green Machine driving around town snap a photo and upload!

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

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.