Towards a sustainable, clean, low-cost energy system for the Park
Whilst the Findhorn Ecovillage boasts the lowest recorded ecological footprint in the developed world, it has always been overly dependent on fossil fuels (gas and oil) for heat and hot water, not to mention transportation. In adressing this, the Findhorn Foundation is currently installing a biomass (woodchip) boiler and district heating scheme to replace fossil fuel boilers in most of its community buildings including the Universal Hall and the Community Centre. The new system will reduce annual carbon emissions by over 100 tonnes and save the Findhorn Foundation about £12,000 in fuel costs. The boiler itself will be a 250 kW Veto housed in a prefabricated, factory-fitted boiler house manufactured in Finland. The district heating pipework, laid a meter underground, is being routed along pathways so as to prevent damage to Findhorn’s famous gardens.
The project is costing over £300,000, half of which is being provided by the Scottish Government through its funding instrument, Community Energy Scotland (CES). Another government body, the Energy Saving Trust, is providing a £100,000 interest free loan payable over eight years. The project will have taken 3 years from its inception, through planning, fundraising and realisation. Aspects of the construction has been challenging, not least in getting the 6m x 4m, 12 tonne boiler house into position behind the Universal Hall. After a failed attempt to transport it along the road to the Hall lined with mature trees and gardens, a second attempt was made using a 500 tonne crane which spectacularly hoisted it 50 m over sensitive duneland from where another 120 tonne crane picked it up and landed it on its concrete plinth. This extra, unforeseen expense was also part funded by CES.
The operation and maintenance of the boiler will be quite demanding. The woodchips made from waste products of a local timber mill will be delivered by tractor and trailer – more than fortnightly in summer and weekly in winter. The boiler’s heat exchanger plates will need cleaning fortnightly and the ash delivered to the composting operation in Cullerne Gardens where the community grows much of its food. The whole process will be an inspiring working example of low-carbon, localised, sustainable practice appropriate for small communities everywhere. And it will help us at Findhorn feel much better about ourselves as an internationally reputed ecovillage.