Solar Beats Wind At Scottish College

What’s believed to be the first major solar-power system to be installed at a Scottish school has been commissioned at Oatridge College in West Lothian, Scotland. Oatridge installed a 50-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system to generate electricity for the campus, and a solar thermal system to provide hot water for four dorms, after considering going with wind power.

The solar systems are expected to reduce campus energy demand by 60 percent and keep 20 tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere. The £140,000 PV system was paid for by the college, and the solar thermal system was funded, in part, by the U.K.-backed Energy Savings Trust. Oatridge expects to save thousands of pounds a year on electricity and gas bills, and will also earn money from its renewable energy generation through Scotland’s feed-in tariff program. A display in the college’s reception area shows real-time and cumulative energy savings of the systems, allowing visitors and students to monitor the results of the investment.

oatridge-solar

image via Oatridge College

James Hiddinga, an Oatridge physicist and engineer professor with 30 years’ experience in the energy field, advised administrators to invest in a solar array, rather than a wind turbine, which he determined would have required significant planning and was unfeasible, given the college’s location in the flight path of planes headed to the Edinburgh airport.

“We also found that West Lothian is one of the sunnier parts of Scotland – although this technology can operate very effectively in cloudy conditions,” Hiddinga said. “Given that the College uses a high proportion of electricity during the day and very little at night, it was almost a no-brainer to go for solar energy.”

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Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).