Going Green at Kincardine Estate.
Our contact with many clients through our Corporate Entertainment enterprise, many of whom have connections with the energy sector, have firmly convinced us of the need to reduce our use of fossil fuels. We are addressing this issue on two fronts: first reducing our energy consumption and, secondly, seeking to utilise alternatives to our use of fossil fuels. Major changes like this cannot happen overnight but Kincardine Estate is now working towards reducing our carbon footprint in a number of ways.
1. Reducing Consumption:
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 then ventilation is controlled. Constrained in what we can do to the building by its listing by Historic Scotland 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 bite the bullet and 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 we face particular challenges in meeting the often conflicting aims of preserving the appearance of historic buildings while trying to make them energy efficient.
At the Castle we are in the process of installing energy saving bulbs as the incandescent ones burn out. Given that there are many hundreds of bulbs this process may take years. Naturally the most frequently used lights have already been changed.
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 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've doing a trial of using the electric van ourselves for short journeys and for delivering the produce from Kincardine Kitchen to local outlets.
2. Green Energy Production
The Scottish Government has set very challenging targets for renewable energy generation. On 23rd September 2010 First Minister Alex Salmond raised the target for electricity generated by renewable energy from 50% to 80% by the year 2020. Within a week he also announced that he expected the figure to reach 100% by 2025. Other targets to minimise the use of carbon based fuels to heat buildings will, in all probability, be increased in due course. 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 are currently exploring the possibility of installing a mid-sized wind turbine on Minew Hill. In September 2010 we installed a meteorological mast to assess the wind profile of the site and this survey will be running for at least the next 12 months. Should the project prove that it is a viable site it is our hope to proceed to the next stage and seek to erect a single Enercon E33 turbine – generating 330kW maximum. Averaged over a year it is estimated this would supply green power for at least 110 average houses. The energy would be sold to the grid and thus supplies to the locality would become greener. Surplus revenue generated by this turbine will be used to support Kincardine Estate’s considerable provision of affordable rented housing.
Meteorological mast at Minew Hill, Kincardine Estate.
It is, of course, inevitable that wind turbines are visible. By their very nature they have to be located where the wind blows. Residents of some dwellings in the area will be able to see the turbine. We have selected a site that is as secluded as it is possible for us to find given the need for it to be windy and some distance from housing. The site has only 2 dwellings within 1,000m radius. The village of Torphins lies 3km slightly south of east of the site. As the great majority of houses there face S or SSW the proposed turbine will not be directly in their main view. The village of Lumphanan is well shielded from the site by Stot Hill.
We wish to stress that we have no plans for a wind-farm of more than one of these turbines at the Minew site as there is insufficient space on our land in that location.
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 are currently assessing 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 is being carried out using thin-plate weirs.
We have investigated the possibility of erecting a solar PV field however initial indications showed that this was not viable. We shall keep a watching brief on solar and reassess the situation should PV technology become much more efficient or if solar thermal solutions prove viable. Instead we use solar power in a different way - to grow trees which can then be used for biomass - see below.
Biomass – for heat and CHP
Our biomass heating project started on its commissioning phase on 24th January 2012. This is a major investment for us, costing well over £150,000. Naturally the project has to be of high quality as befits its location beside a major listed building and within an Outstanding Conservation Area.
As part of the heating installation we've included a 30kW log boiler along with the wood-chip boiler. This is to provide us with a belt-and-braces back-up system in case anything should go awry with the wood-chip system. With some prescience we seem to have installed a system that could also burn redundant Euro banknotes when that currency breaks up.
We already burn logs in a number of fires in the castle and this practice will continue. Once fully up-and-running we expect this system to save the burning of over 20,000 litres of oil per annum.
Once we learn from our experience of using biomass to heat Kincardine Castle we shall then take forward plans to use biomass to provide heat and power for other estate properties. In truth it seems likely this will only be a viable plan if we build a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant in conjunction with new development. If we can at the same time provide more economical and greener heating for our tenants (and indeed other households) then this will be a win-win situation.
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.