Scotland’s oldest university has received planning permission to transform an old paper mill into a green energy site, brining St Andrews one step closer to becoming the UK’s first carbon-neutral university.
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The university acquired the disused site of Curtis Fine Papers in Guardbridge in 2010, and a £25m investment will generate a green energy hub to attract renewable technologies and new industry to Fife.
The site will generate power through clean biomass and will pump hot water underground for four miles, to heat and cool St Andrews’ labs and residences. The biomass facility will use only virgin roundwood, locally sourced from sustainable forests.
Together with an already approved six-turbine wind power development at Kenly to the east of St Andrews, the Guardbridge scheme will support St Andrews’ strategic drive to become the United Kingdom’s first carbon-neutral university.
The green energy produced on site and at Kenly will help the university to protect jobs and ward off the effects of rapidly rising external energy prices.
While St Andrews has managed to cut its power consumption in recent years, energy prices have been continually hiked by the big power companies. For the university, this represents a ‘major threat to investment in front line teaching and research.’
In addition to the energy centre, the university also hopes to establish a Knowledge Exchange Hub to provide ‘missing link’ facilities that would allow research and discoveries made in university labs to be translated to working prototypes. The Centre will also offer affordable accommodation to local companies, with the aim of attracting businesses and skills linked to the renewables sector.
‘It has taken us much longer than we originally anticipated to crystallise our thinking on a Renewable Energy Centre and we are grateful for the patience and encouragement shown to us by the local community over the last three years.
‘We are also very grateful to the Scottish Funding Council for supporting our vision of carbon neutrality with a very significant investment of £10 million.
‘Guardbridge represents a major strategic step for the University. We are committed to becoming carbon neutral and this large industrial site lends itself to the creation of a range of renewable energies which are vital to our efforts to remain one of Europe’s leading research institutions.
‘There is also an ideal opportunity to establish a Knowledge Exchange Centre for spin-out, local companies seeking affordable accommodation and for prototype testing.
‘We believe the diverse range of potential uses at Guardbridge has the capacity to re-establish this huge site as a key economic centre in Fife.
‘We will consult closely with the community as our plans take shape.’
University Quaestor and Factor Derek Watson
The Renewable Energy Centre is expected to be complete and operational by December 2015.
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