Businesses urged to keep energy costs down by investing in renewables

Almost £20m of renewable electricity is being generated every year by Scottish businesses, farmers, public sector organisations and homeowners, according to new figures.

Increasing numbers of Scots are turning to renewable energy devices such as wind turbines, solar panels, small-scale hydro and heat pumps in a bid to help them reduce energy bills and lower their carbon footprint.

The systems which supply heating and electricity needs also generate electricity which can be sold back to the grid. The increasing popularity of renewables has seen the total installed capacity of renewable energy devices ‘on-site’ tripling in the last five years alone, with £19.3m of electricity being generated by these schemes every year.

Member organisation Scottish Renewables is holding a major On-Site Renewables exhibition and workshop in Perth this week (Thursday 21st), where businesses and individuals will be able to get more information on the technologies.

Stephanie Clark, Policy Officer for Scottish Renewables, said: “It’s not just big companies who are building renewable energy projects, but more and more private individuals and businesses are taking their energy needs into their own hands by looking to renewables.

“We’ve seen farmers use wind power to generate electricity to make ice-cream, universities using biomass boilers as a heat supply and minibuses powered by biodiesel. In all of these examples they are managing to do three things; lower their energy costs in the future, reduce their carbon footprint and potentially generate income.”

Stewart Tower Dairy in Stanley, Perthshire, has installed a single wind turbine which has been operational since January. It has already helped the business – which makes ice cream for Harvey Nichols and Gleneagles, among others – offset rising energy costs.

Owner Neil Butler said: “Making ice cream uses a lot of power, for fridges, freezers, compressors, and as we are on a plateau – about 300ft up with good wind speeds – a turbine seemed to make sense.

“The benefit for us is not selling power into the grid, but the offset; we are providing almost half the power we need using the turbine and that is saving us enormous amounts when power bills are rising around 10 per cent a year. When you look at that kind of price rise, on-site renewables look very attractive.”

A rural development trust in Douglas Water near Lanark has started using biodiesel to power their transport fleet of mainly minibuses which are vital for their rural area.

Gordon Muir, Managing Director of the Rural Development Trust, said: “For the majority of our fleet, we still use 25-50 per cent biodiesel, made by collecting cooking oil from South Lanarkshire schools, heating it and mixing it with chemicals.

“It is great for us because we take a green product that would probably go to landfill and turn it into a fuel. The kids love it because we tell them they are having their school dinner cooked in the same oil which is running their school bus the next day! They are very positive about the green agenda and it really engages them.”

Using renewables on-site can be achieved on a larger scale as Queen Margaret University have managed to prove with their biomass energy centre which has been in operation for the last five years.

Steve Scott, Director of Campus and Commercial Services, said of their woodchip biomass boiler: “It has worked very well, providing heating and hot water to all buildings, including academic buildings, the students’ union and 800 residential units. We had to put in additional capital investment but while we were looking at a 7-8 year payback, it has paid back in 6 years.”

While Chris Evans, Director of Noddsdale Hydro near Largs, Ayrshire has used hydropower since 2010 as a means of diversifying the estate’s activities.

“I spoke to other people with similar schemes and they advised me if it was properly constructed, checked and commissioned, I had nothing to fear. So we went for it,” he said.

“We were very happy how things ended up and we sell our power to SmartestEnergy. Although the initial costs extended our payback period, we are quietly confident we will get payback in 8½ years, depending on the pattern of rainfall – then have a fairly healthy income stream beyond that period.

“It worked for us and I’m now talking to people about doing another hydro scheme locally.”

Ms Clark, Policy Officer for Scottish Renewables, added: “We need to encourage more businesses and individuals to take up the opportunity. This week’s event will provide a wealth of information on a number of renewable technologies and will provide an opportunity to hear more about some of the challenges and how they can be overcome.”

Scottish Renewables’ On-site Renewables Exhibition and Workshop, Thursday 21 November, Perth Concert Hall, Perth.

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