SCOTLAND’S oldest university is aiming to slash its soaring electricity bill by establishing its own £25 million renewable energy centre.
The University of St Andrews is to apply for planning permission to establish a renewable energy centre on the site of the former Curtis Fine Papers Mill at Guardbridge between Leuchars and St Andrews.
The university is currently facing an annual energy bill of around £5m.
Three months ago the institution was granted approval to build a six-turbine windfarm at Kenly Farm, three miles south of St Andrews, despite claims that some of the 328ft turbines would be visible from holes on the town’s historic Old Course.
The £20m turbine development is expected to produce 12.3 megawatts of electricity, which will be used to power the university’s buildings at the North Haugh.
The energy centre plans announced today are backed by a £10m grant from the Scottish Funding Council which is supporting carbon-reduction schemes across Scottish higher education.
A university spokesman said: “Alongside recently approved plans for a six-turbine wind power development, the Guardbridge scheme will support a 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.”
Earlier this year, the university revealed that rising energy costs meant bills had increased fivefold in recent years, from less than £1m to over £5m.
The spokesman said: “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 frontline teaching and research.
“Now it’s hoped the plans 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 £25m in Guardbridge is expected to support new employment.
“Subject to planning permission, the site will be renamed the Sustainable Power and Research Campus and work will start in 2014 with the renewable energy centre 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.”
Factor Derek Watson, the university quaestor [responsible for the institution’s finances], 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.”