A link up between Lewis and Finland is aiming to develop a unique, energy initiative which will utilise clean energy and reduce household bills.
Lews Castle College UHI and Tighean Innse Gall have linked up with the University of Oulu in Finland to promote the use of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems.
“Our project aims to address fuel poverty in our islands and areas with a similar climate by using some of the heat used in people’s homes to generate electricity,” said Dr Alasdair Macleod, Lead Researcher in Energy Engineering at Lews Castle College UHI.
Director of Tighean Innse Gall, Stewart Wilson, added: “It’s potentially brilliant for residents of the Western Isles, in that as heat is produced electricity comes from the same source.
“This will improve efficiency, reduce electricity consumed from the grid, and lower energy bills.”
The purpose of the joint project is to promote the uptake of CHP in the region using sold renewable biomass and gasification methods that will be appropriate for remote households.
The Northern Periphery Area has abundant natural fuel resources but is subject to harsher climate that the rest of Europe, resulting in the need for increased domestic fuel.
Attempts to exploit natural energy resources for households has been mixed, and as a result there is significant fuel poverty in the region – a key factor being the high cost of electricity.
It has been estimated that up to 70% of electrical energy can be lost in production and transmission lines before reaching the end user – primarily as heat loss. The principle of CHP is to use some of the heat in the home to generate electricity; this is intrinsically highly efficient.
Running for three years with €1.99million funding from the European Development Fund for the Northern Periphery and Arctic, the international project will analyse the energy needs of remote households in the region.
As available fuel is mainly sold which is unsuitable for existing gas CHP, a new affordable solution is proposed that uses local renewable solid biofuel in a small-scale micro CHP system.
The advantage of this approach is that all fuel used is carbon neutral, transport costs are minimal, and there are reduced CO2 emissions.
A 20kW heat and 3-6kW electricity with smart control system will be designed, manufactured and trialled in all participant areas which will demonstrate the energy efficient use of locally sourced, renewable bio-energy in family homes, especially in remote and sparsely populated regions.
Commenting, Lews Castle College UHI Principal Iain Macmillan said: “This project is a further example of how Lews Castle College UHI is committed to working with local and international partners to develop Energy Initiatives – which can make a real difference to people’s lives through improving energy efficiency and reducing their fuel bills.”
And Donald Nicholson, Chairman of Tighean Innse Gall, added: “It’s great that we can work together with Lews Castle College on such an innovative project, to help tackle fuel poverty.
“Local, national and international collaboration is essential to developing such work.”
Tighean Innse Gall, Lews Castle College UHI and the University of Oulu are currently seeking further funding to increase the impact of this unique initiative which could make a real difference to the lives of people facing the high energy costs of living in areas which have a challenging climate.