High-flying Highland farmer greenest in his field

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A Highland helicopter pilot is the first in the UK to run a carbon-neutral flying business, using renewables technology to generate all the electricity he needs to run his farm, as well as exporting power to the grid.

John McKenzie, from Dingwall, has spent £165,000 installing solar panels, a wind turbine and a micro hydro-electric plant at his Ross-shire farm in order to offset his carbon footprint and make farming more sustainable.

John McKenzie flying his helicopter. Picture: Bobby Nelson

John McKenzie flying his helicopter. Picture: Bobby Nelson

He said: “I do as much as I can to make sure my helicopter business doesn’t impact on the environment and the home renewables go a long way to achieving that target.”

Green technologies installed at Scroggie Farm include a 12 kilowatt hydro scheme that harnesses energy from a burn to produce enough power to light 93 homes for a year, an 18-­metre-high wind turbine and 3kW solar panels mounted on the cattle shed roof.

Combined, his gadgets provide the 39-hectare farm with 100 per cent renewable energy all year round and enough surplus to sell to the national grid.

Mr McKenzie flies helicopters for television and film companies – this week he is on location in Bulgaria and he previously worked on hit Scottish drama Monarch of the Glen.

John McKenzie at work on his farm. Picture: Bobby Nelson

John McKenzie at work on his farm. Picture: Bobby Nelson

He also pilots air ambulances and chauffeurs VIPs, and he ­delivered the SPL football trophy on “Helicopter Sunday”.

The flying farmer, who rears cattle, sheep, pigs and hens, plus alpacas for wool, even drives an electric car, which he recharges with green electricity generated at his home.

“Nobody has invented an electric helicopter yet,” he added. “When they do, I will be able to charge it at home without burning any fossil fuels at all.”

Other projects in his local area are also benefiting from Mr McKenzie’s green expertise.

“The Dingwall and Highland Auction Mart took inspiration from what I’ve been doing at the farm and installed a wind turbine,” he said.

The former Army Air Corps pilot is also director of the Ding­wall Wind Co-op, a group working to install a community-owned 250kW turbine. “Everyone who is a part of the co-operative benefits from the electricity it generates,” he said.

The Dingwall wind project, which launches tomorrow and is expected to be online by next May, will be the first in Scotland to be 100 per cent owned by a co-operative.

Anthony Kyriakides, manager for Scottish Renewables at the Energy Saving Trust, said: “John’s efforts to generate his own electricity using renewable technologies are truly inspirational.”

• Anyone who wants to see for themselves how renewables technology has been employed at Scroggie Farm can visit on Saturday as part of the Green Homes Network’s open days scheme, which is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by the Energy Saving Trust.

The Green Homes Network, the Green Network for Businesses and the Green Network for Social Housing are made up of a collection of more than 800 homes, businesses and social housing projects across Scotland that have renewables or energy-efficiency technologies installed.