Reducing our oil and gas dependency

The Findhorn Foundation is ending its dependency on oil and gas in a number of buildings with the installation of a new biomass boiler that will reduce carbon emissions by more than 100 tons a year and save about £1,000 each month in fuel costs.

Project Manager Graham Meltzer with the new biomass boiler that will reduce carbon emissions by more than 100 tons a year.

The 250 kW boiler, which is fuelled by woodchips made from waste wood from a local sawmill, will be operational during September and will replace all existing gas and oil boilers in the Community Centre, Universal Hall, Park Building and eight residential buildings in the heart of The Park.

While the community already boasts the lowest recorded ecological footprint in the developed world, project manager Graham Meltzer of the Foundation’s Asset Development Group says: “The latest initiative is a natural and essential progression that will help us at Findhorn to feel much better about ourselves as an internationally reputed ecovillage.”

But the project, which has taken three years from its inception and is costing more than £300,000, has not been without its share of 11th hour challenge.

The delivery and final positioning of the 12-ton biomass boiler was aborted less than 100 yards from its destination when the project team faced muddy conditions caused by heavy rain and a technical problem with the rear-wheel steering mechanism of the transport vehicle.

One of two huge specialised cranes hoists the boiler over sensitive duneland in a spectacular operation that saved the lives of three mature trees.

Only by removing three mature trees lining the route near the Universal Hall, with inevitable damage to garden beds, could the original delivery plan have succeeded but this was not acceptable to the Findhorn Foundation community.

Various alternatives were explored including the possible use of an RAF helicopter, but eventually two giant cranes were sourced to lift the boiler in two stages across sensitive duneland to its home on a concrete plinth behind the Park Building.

Graham Meltzer has echoed the gratitude of the community to the Scottish Government which made the investment possible through a £150,000 grant from its funding instrument, Community Energy Scotland (CES) along with an interest-free loan of £100,000 from the Energy Saving Trust, which will be repaid over eight years. Two thirds of the unforeseen extra costs of hiring the two cranes have also been covered by CES.

The Findhorn Ecovillage has been at the cutting edge of sustainable development with the use of electricity-generating wind turbines as well as the creation of various types of ecological housing including some made from whisky barrels.

The Living Machine is a sewage treatment system that was the first of its kind in Europe in 1995, and uses a series of tanks containing plants and bacteria to break down waste without the use of chemicals, the end product being clean water.

Each year thousands of visitors from around the world participate in community life in a variety of ways ranging from tours of a few hours to involvement in educational workshops and programmes.

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Story and photos: Geoff Dalglish

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