Through our Kincardine Castle enterprise we meet lots of people and many have connections with the energy sector. We’re firmly convinced of the need to reduce our use of fossil fuels. We are addressing this issue on two fronts: first reducing energy consumption and, secondly, using green energy alternatives. Major changes like this cannot happen overnight but Kincardine Estate is now working towards reducing our carbon footprint in a number of ways.
Kincardine Castle is heated by biomass. It isn’t an easy building to heat as it was constructed to encourage fresh air to flow through the structure in order to keep the timbers fresh. This is in direct contrast to today’s buildings which are built to be air-tight and with controlled ventilation. Constrained in what we can do to the building by its listing as an Historic Building it is difficult to reduce our heating consumption. When we’re on our own here we heat isolated parts of the castle and wear lots of sweaters. Obviously when we have guests we crank up the heating and the castle becomes warm and snug.
We continue to work towards making our rented properties more energy efficient too. This is an on-going and gradual process. Many of our houses have double glazing and loft insulation. The construction of the houses makes it impossible to fit cavity wall insulation but where we have carried out major renovation works we have been able to install insulation in walls and floors.
With a total of 14 listed buildings in our portfolio, and many others within the Kincardine O’Neil Outstanding Conservation Area, we face particular challenges in meeting the often conflicting aims of preserving the appearance of vernacular historic buildings while trying to make them energy efficient.
At present we’re still wrestling with the fact that the Government’s preferred measure of energy efficiency is unsuitable for traditionally built granite homes and that fact that the inspectors refuse to accept walls are insulated if they cannot see that they are. (In that the majority of insulation is designed to be hidden from view this makes it doubly difficult to meet government targets).
At the Castle we have changed almost all our bulbs from incandescent to energy saving and LED bulbs.
Some years ago we changed our Land Rover Discovery for a diesel Volvo which gives us nearly twice the mileage. We also have a small energy efficient Skoda which we use when possible. On the estate it is difficult to get away from using larger vehicles as these are needed to get to some off-road locations and to carry tools and equipment. In an experiment we acquired an electric van for one of our joiners but the vehicle’s limited range proved unsatisfactory. Instead we took to using the electric van ourselves for short journeys and for delivering the produce from Kincardine Kitchen to local outlets. While we were fond of it it turned out that our move into electric vehicle usage was precipitate as the model’s performance deteriorated to the point of being useless. No doubt we shall try again in due course. Note to Elon Musk: Waiting for Tesla Van.
The Scottish Government has set very challenging targets for renewable energy generation. Kincardine Estate is convinced that it must assist in meeting these targets and is already investigating a number of options for green energy production.
We explored the possibility of installing a mid-sized wind turbine on Minew Hill. In September 2010 we installed a 40 metre tall meteorological mast to assess the wind profile of the site. All the internet-based predictions led us to expect a mean wind-speed of around 6.7m per sec. However the two-year’s data proved that to be wildly optimistic. The mast was removed and we’ve had to shelve our plans to generate sufficient energy for all the homes on the estate from the wind.
Given the importance of the River Dee as a world-class salmon fishing destination we don’t regard the option of extracting energy from the Dee as being realistic. However a number of the estate’s farms had, historically, small water mills. This is despite the fact that Kincardine Estate is not blessed with sizeable burns flowing across its land.
We assessed the flows of the small burns that powered these mills to determine whether it would be viable to install a hydro-turbine. We can already state that it is highly unlikely that more than about 3kW could be generated from water and even then there would be a lull in power output during the summer. Flow assessment was carried out using thin-plate weirs.
After some years of measurement it is clear that our hydro-electricity options are very limited. Short of damming the river Dee, which would not be welcomed, we shall have to search for other sources of energy.
A few years ago we investigated the possibility of erecting a solar PV field. At the time this was not viable. We promised to review this and are currently re-visiting that idea. In March 2019 we commissioned a 4kW array on the roof of the new garden shed. A small PV panel powers the light in our fishing hut. Other arrays may follow. Meantime we use solar power in a different way – to grow trees which can then be used for biomass – see below.
Our biomass heating project was commissioned on 5th March 2012 at a total cost of £205,000. Naturally the project has to be of high quality as befits its location beside a major listed building and within an Outstanding Conservation Area.
The system comprises a 133kW wood-chip boiler and a 20kW log boiler producing, in total, a maximum of 153kW. In the 84 months to 5th March 2019 we have saved in the region of 160,000 litres of kerosene, that’s nearly 400 tons of CO2 from fossil fuels. Obviously the wood chips cost us and the system does use about £2,000 of electricity per annum (see solar power above). Nevertheless the fuel savings are significant and, what’s more important than anything is that the castle is now warmer and more comfortable than it’s ever been. We’re aware that burning wood emits CO2 but as long as we can keep planting the trees this CO2 is, effectively, recycled.
We have considered a CHP plant fired by biomass but haven’t, as yet, identified a use for the heat produced by the system through the summer months when heating demand is much lower. Work in progress.
Geothermal heating plants require electricity to drive them and with the inefficiencies of energy transmission – only some 40% of the power generated reaches the end-user – the supposed energy efficiency of geothermal heat begins to fade when one looks at the whole energy equation. Our view on this will probably change if we are making our own electricity from either the wind or CHP projects detailed above.
Would you like to learn more about Green Energy at Kincardine? Please get in touch with our friendly team for more information.
Some kind words from our previous guests…
“Thanks to Andrew and Nicola’s hospitality and their extraordinary home. We forgot we were on a business meeting. Absolutely a superb experience”.