Napier University commissions pioneering carbon-cutting green fuel cell on campus


Napier University's Merchiston campus
Napier University’s Merchiston campus

Edinburgh’s Napier University has struck a pioneering “green” deal which will cut CO2 emissions while driving down energy costs.

The property and facilities department has commissioned the installation of a fuel cell, a small highly efficient generator that converts natural gas to electricity and heat, at the university’s Merchiston campus.

As the first Scottish installation of BlueGEN, Edinburgh Napier will demonstrate the future potential for the technology of power generation on both domestic and business premises.

The university will use the installation for educational purposes within the School of Engineering and the Built Environment, and for demonstrations to external audiences. 

Use of the BlueGEN unit, in a project managed by award-winning social enterprise iPower Energy Limited, places the university in the vanguard of micro combined heat and power (micro-CHP) fuel cell technology application in Scotland.

The unit converts natural gas to electricity around-the-clock, using the most efficient method currently available to extract usable energy from the gas. It works at significantly higher electrical efficiencies than other microCHP systems and is on a par with those on a large scale.

iPower covered the cost of supplying and installing the unit, while the university pays for its servicing and the gas consumed, in return enjoying free use of all the electricity and heat which is generated.

The scheme comes with Government approval as micro-CHP technology is eligible for Feed-In-Tariff income, a scheme involving guaranteed payments to energy users for the renewable or low-carbon electricity they generate.

The landmark “free provision” deal with the university will provide a model for a wider programme due to be launched soon.

As well as reducing energy costs, the use of BlueGEN fuel cells helps meet national targets for reducing CO2 emissions. Each unit typically reduces CO2 emission by up to 3.6 tonnes a year.

iPower, who are committed to addressing the twin challenges of climate change and fuel poverty, has received support from Scottish Enterprise, including a competitively won award under its Edge programme.  

Richard Cebula, energy and utilities manager, Edinburgh Napier University, said: “Given the university’s own research involvement and the need to explore different ways to reduce operational carbon emissions, it was considered constructive to install the BlueGEN as a working example of alternative micro combined heat and power.

“Despite the science behind the system being well known, BlueGEN is still at the stage of early adoption.  Although the energy produced is small scale, the Merchiston installation is regarded as a proving ground for further development and use of this renewable electricity and heat generating technology which is eligible for Feed-In-Tariff payments to assist in covering the additional costs associated with early uptake renewables.

“It is hoped that the university will be able to further utilise the BlueGEN and similar technology on a larger scale within its buildings in its bid to achieve its ambitious carbon reduction targets. Self-generation of electricity is increasingly becoming a more critical element of carbon management.”

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