Council Underlines Green Credentials
Thanks to a programme of installations of solar water heating and solar electrical generation, ground source heat pumps, wood fuelled (biomass) boilers and wind turbines at its highest energy consuming buildings, The Highland Council is well on its way to meeting its target of producing 4,000 kilowatts of renewable energy by 2010.
At the same time, the Council is experiencing an overall decrease in energy use of 12.5% and associated carbon emissions by 11.1% over 2004/05 figures – thanks to the sustainable measures taken and greater awareness of staff and building users to conserve energy. As part of its five-year energy management plan, the Council has set aside £5 million to reduce CO2 emissions from its buildings and avoid fuel costs as energy prices increase.
Underway at Council headquarters in Inverness is the installation of 63 solar panels on the south-facing roof of the council chamber building to produce 10 kWp of solar electrical generation which will produce 9,000kWh p.a. The cost is £60,000. Council headquarters has been chosen as a flagship project because it is the Council’s 11th highest energy consuming building.
A further 32 solar panel heating projects are proposed to be installed – mainly in schools – before April, next year, at a cost of £450,000. The Council receives 50% of this cost from the UK Government.
The Council is also installing solar water heating in 15 schools as well as swimming pools at Dingwall, Invergordon, Tain and Thurso.
Biomass Boilers, which are fuelled by wood and are considered carbon neutral, have already been successfully installed at primary schools at Abernethy, Avoch, Dingwall, Hilton of Cadboll, and Lochyside. At Avoch, for example, the Eco school has benefited from a 30% reduction in its fuel costs and enjoyed a more efficient heating system.
Before the end of this financial year, biomass boilers will be installed at primary schools at Inverlochy, Halkirk, Lairg, Lochcarron and Pulteneytown Academy, Wick. They will replace or reduce the use of old and costly oil heating systems. It is also intended that 6kW wind turbines will be installed at a number of school locations across the region to provide low carbon electricity and reduce costs.
When visiting schools, the Council’s Energy Team meets with pupils to explain the benefits of the renewable energy projects.
Councillor Ian Ross, Chairman of the Planning Environment and Development Committee, said: “I am delighted at the significant progress we are making with our energy management performance. This is especially important given the rise in energy bills, outwith our control, of £3 million over the past three years. Our efforts, to date, have meant we have avoided costs of more than £1 million in the past two years.
“We are on track to meet our target of 4,000 kW of renewable energy by 2010, with an installed capacity of 2,366 kW by the end of this financial year. The benefits at Avoch, where a biomass boiler has replaced the oil boiler, demonstrate just what can be achieved and the pupils, who were heavily involved, are justifiably proud of their green credentials.
“The message to conserve energy is also registering with our staff and users of our buildings as we are seeing real savings in energy consumption.
“We are also committed to examining the whole life costs of new buildings to ensure they are energy efficient and sustainable. Our new primary school at Acharacle, currently under construction, will be Scotland’s most sustainable school and all future buildings that we design will incorporate renewable sources of energy.
“All in all we have a very positive picture and we aim to build on this in the months and years ahead to establish ourselves very firmly as a green and environmentally friendly council.”