The University of St Andrews is to apply for planning permission to establish a £25 million Renewable Energy Centre on the site of the former Curtis Fine Papers Mill at Guardbridge.
Backed by a £10 million grant from the Scottish Funding Council which is supporting carbon reduction schemes across Scottish Higher Education, the university proposes to generate power through clean biomass at Guardbridge and pump hot water 4 miles underground to St Andrews to heat and cool its labs and residences.
Alongside recently approved plans for a six-turbine wind power development at Kenly to the east of St Andrews, the Guardbridge scheme will support a strategic drive by St Andrews to become the United Kingdom’s first carbon-neutral university.
The green energy produced on site and at Kenly will help the University protect jobs and ward off the effects of rapidly rising external energy prices. Although St Andrews has managed to cut its power consumption in recent years, energy prices have been continually hiked by the big power companies, representing a major threat to investment in front line teaching and research.
Now it’s hoped the plans for Guardbridge will boost efforts to revitalise the giant site and bring new investment in renewable technologies and new industry to Fife. The investment of at least £25 million in Guardbridge is expected to support new employment in the Fife village. The biomass facility will use only virgin roundwood, locally sourced from sustainable forests.
In addition to the energy centre, the University also hopes to establish a Knowledge Exchange Hub to provide “missing link” facilities which 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.
Subject to planning permission, the Guardbridge site will be renamed the Sustainable Power and Research Campus (SPARC), work will start onsite in 2014 with the Renewable Energy Centre complete and operational by December 2015.
St Andrews expects to apply to Fife Council for planning permission before the end of the year and will carry out open public consultation on its proposals, including public meetings and drop-in sessions in Guardbridge and St Andrews.
Since it acquired the vacant site in 2010, the University has met regularly with Guardbridge Community Council and local members of Fife Council.
University Quaestor and Factor Derek Watson said:
“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.”
Issued by the University of St Andrews Press Office
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