THE University of St Andrews is to move ahead with plans to establish a Green Energy Centre and a Knowledge Exchange Centre for spin-out companies, new business and prototype testing on the site of the former Curtis Fine Papers Mill at Guardbridge.
The University – which bought the vacant mill in 2010 – is also in discussions with a brewing company which is keen to establish a brewery at Guardbridge.
It’s hoped the plans will revitalise the giant site and bring new investment in renewable technologies and new industry to Fife. In total the University believes the plans represent a proposed investment of over £25 million in Guardbridge and could see 100 jobs created or moved to the Fife village.
Having carried out all the detailed investigation and preparatory work over the last 18 months, the University is now seeking a specialist partner to develop the Green Energy Centre. It has placed adverts in European journals seeking an energy partner to help build and the run the Guardbridge centre.
The centre will generate and distribute energy -in the form of heat and electricity – produced by biomass, hydro-power, ground source heat pumps and possibly gas reclamation from sewage. Some of the energy will be used to power businesses and activities on the site – the rest will be pumped as hot water to St Andrews where it will heat and cool buildings and student residences.
The biomass facility will use clean, renewable fuels, locally sourced wherever possible.
Alongside the energy centre, the University also hopes to establish a Knowledge Exchange Centre to provide “missing link” facilities which would allow research and discoveries made in university labs to be translated to working prototypes. The Centre will also offer affordable accommodation to local companies.
The establishment of a brewery on site would by itself create up 20 jobs by 2014 and see the Guardbridge Mill re-visiting its history. Prior to its development as a paper production plant, the site was the Seggie Distillery. Other jobs will be created during construction of the energy and knowledge exchange centres, to run the centres and in the relocation of spin-out and other companies to Guardbridge.
The green energy produced on site will help the University protect jobs and ward off the effects of rapidly rising external energy prices. Even although St Andrews has managed to decrease its energy usage in recent years, energy prices have been continually hiked, representing a major threat to investment in front line teaching and research.
Subject to the appointment of an energy partner and applications for planning permission, it is expected work could begin on site in 2013 with the Centres operational by 2014. The University also hopes to bid for Government funding to support the creation of a Knowledge Exchange Centre.
University Quaestor and Factor Derek Watson said: “Guardbridge represents a major strategic step for the University. We are committed wherever possible to becoming carbon neutral and this large industrial site lends itself to the creation of a range of renewable energies which are vital to our efforts to remain one of Europe’s leading research institutions.
“There is also an ideal opportunity to establish a Knowledge Exchange Centre for spin-out, local companies seeking affordable accommodation and for prototype testing.
“We believe the diverse range of potential uses at Guardbridge has the capacity to re-establish this huge site as a key economic centre in Fife.
“It has taken us longer than we originally anticipated to prepare the groundwork for site development and we are grateful for the patience and encouragement given to us by the local community over the last 18 months.
“We will consult closely with the community as our plans take shape.”
The Guardbridge plans also include:
- Measures to safeguard the future of the bird hide operated by the Fife Ranger Service. Discussions are ongoing between the University and key stakeholders about enhancing and possibly relocating and expanding this facility.
- The potential development of land to the south of the main site for commercial uses such as retail, leisure or private housing. There are no plans at present to create student accommodation at Guardbridge.
- Exploring the provision of a new community resource in the village, recognising local concerns that Guardbridge lacks a central focus and facility for use by local people and groups.