Cold student’s hot idea saves university £400 000 a year

The final-year project of an engineering student at Edinburgh University has become the blueprint to transform an old heating system into a model of energy efficiency based on combined heat and power. Andrea Connelly undertook a feasibility study in 2000 to establish if CHP would be applicable to the College of Science & Engineering. Her study involved assessing some 30 buildings covering some 122 000 m2 and evaluating the availability of Government subsidy through the Energy Saving Trust. The university used the project as the basis for developing a proposal for replacing the existing 30-year-old steam-heating network and applying for grant assistance. A £1.6 million grant was awarded by the Community Energy Programme, administered by the Energy Saving Trust, providing the funding fo Crown House Engineering to install a 2.7 MW(e) gas-fired CHP system on the campus. The project was formally opened at the end of March. Prof. Geoffrey Boulton, vice-principal and convener of the university’s sustainability and environmental advisor group, says, ‘This tremendous project enable us to cut our annual carbon-emissions by over 2000 t and, once we have repaid our investment, will reduce annual running costs by around £400 000. The bonus has been the academic link between an undergraduate’s dissertation and practical investments made by the university!’ Building on the success of this project, a second CHP system has been installed at the Pollock’s School of Residence serving some 2000 student study bedrooms. The Community Energy Programme has granted a further £2.7 million for yet another system in George Square. Andrea Connelly, now a building-services engineer with TPS Consult in Edinburgh, says, ‘Looking back, I probably spent more time on the project than was good for me! As the deadline approached I was taking my sleeping bag into the computing lab. to type it. There was such a lot of work involved in the study, but it was worth it in the end. I’m something of a “fix-it” person by nature and someone who is always complaining of the cold!. So facing a practical challenge like this was very rewarding.’

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