One of Scotland’s oldest and most famous exports whisky will soon be teaming up with one of its newest, renewable energy at a distillery near the village of Craigellachie on the River Spey in the Scottish Highlands. The village is situated within a large forested area and lies approximately halfway between Inverness and Aberdeen.
Later this year one of the village’s whisky distilleries will access steam required for this distillation process from a state of the art combined heat and power plant (CHP). This will supply 76 GWh of steam per year to the distillery whilst at the same time generating 87 GWh of electricity, enough to power 20,000 homes. This will also save 42,000 cubic tonnes of CO2 per year. The CHP plant will be fuelled by locally sourced sustainable biomass giving a boost to the local forestry economy.
This is another positive feature of CHP plants as they bring a number of benefits to their local area, both environmental and economical. As heat can only be transported efficiently over short distances CHP plants are normally situated within the local area as part of a decentralised energy system.
Earlier this year the Scottish Government was encouraged to maintain its CO2 emission reduction target by the Committee on Climate Change. Prior to that in November 2015 the Committee issued new recommendations to the UK Government regarding its Firth Carbon Budget along with the advice that “we require progress in increasingly difficult areas to continue reducing emissions.”
In reality they were saying that we were doing well but also that need to do more in order to achieve our environmental goals. Heating is one area with a lot of scope for improvement with over a third of the UK’s CO2 emission coming from heat use and accounting for over 40% of our total energy consumption. In Scotland this rises to 55% of energy use and over 45% of all carbon emissions.
Whilst the challenge is great so is the opportunity and it is developments like the distillery in Craigellachie that are leading the way. However in order to achieve our targets we must do more and solutions such as electrification and carbon capture are two technologies we should be applying more.
CHP however is a more proven technology in use through Europe and North America. In Berlin and Paris similar devices are connected to a district heating system providing hot water to a number of residences. They can also be linked to industrial premises supplying low carbon heat. Examples of this can be found in Grangemouth, Cheshire, and Teesside however they tend to be the exception and not the rule with the vast percentage of our industry still receiving its energy from traditional high carbon sources.
In total approximately 7% of the UK’s electricity is supplied by CHP technology however this number is growing as the positive benefits easily outweigh the added complexity of such projects. The Craigellachie distillery shows that with the right conditions renewable CHP can be made to work.
Another first in the UK this week is pilot district heating scheme in Bristol which will store heat in the summer underground releasing it in the colder winter months. The Easton Community Centre’s renewable heating system will use air source pumps to trap the summer heat which will then be stored under a nearby park until it is needed during the winter. Excess solar energy generated from panels on the community centre’s roof will power the pumps.
The project, funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change via its Heat Network Innovation Fund cost £700,000 to install and includes plans to extend the scheme to nearby homes over the next few years.
The project, named CHOICES, is run jointly by environmental consultants Eunomia, the University of Bath, the Easton Energy Group and clean-tech developers CEPRO and ICAX. It is hoped that carbon savings of 38% and energy savings of 64% can be achieved in the project’s initial year. Then it is expected to increase to 51% carbon savings by the tenth year and 66% by the twentieth.
Speaking at the launch of the project Eunomia consultant Mark Corbin said “At Eunomia we believe it’s important to help support and develop innovative and viable business models in energy storage and local energy supply, and have been pleased to support this project as a great example of Bristol’s green innovative spirit,” he said in a statement. “It’s using the ground under people’s picnic rugs and the sun above their heads to provide them with heat in winter, helping to decarbonise the heat supply.”
It is important for us to continue to push the boundaries when it comes to new energy technologies. Although our renewable energy sources may be limitless the infrastructure isn’t so smarter ways to manage our energy will play massive part in reducing our carbon emissions and increasing our renewable energy usage.
The projects in Craigellachie and Bristol are essential in helping us achieve this and as the technology matures the costs will reduce making schemes like these more accessible to us all. The more involved the greater the carbon emission reductions which in turn will benefit us all.