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Increasing energy efficiency

  • Date published: 13/01/20
  • Related fund: Glenkerie

Biggar Museum Trust is an independent charity, which operates the Biggar & Upper Clydesdale Museum in Biggar, South Lanarkshire. The Museum archives, celebrates and promotes local history and culture, and offers gallery and meeting space in addition to showcasing its collections. The Museum is rooted in its community, and supported by over 80 local volunteers to deliver its activities. It received the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2018 in recognition of this civic contribution.

Biggar community groups can access community benefit funds from the Ventient Glenkerie Community Fund. The Fund, provided by Ventient Energy Ltd, is linked to its nearby Glenkerie wind farm in the Scottish Borders. A panel of volunteer residents makes decisions on awards, supported by grant-making charity Foundation Scotland.

The Museum is in a new building which opened in 2015 and attracts around 8,000 visitors in a year. It is well insulated and the heating and ventilation system is efficient.  However, energy was still the third-largest running cost and electricity use was high and increasing, due to the need to light the building all day and in response to higher visitor footfall to the improved Museum attraction. The Museum already used efficient sensor-operated LED lighting within the exhibition areas, and it could not limit energy use any further. Instead, it needed to identify a more cost-effective energy source.

In addition, the external lock-ups at the back of the Museum were required for permanent collection storage because the internal stores were at maximum capacity. To protect stored items against the harmful effects of temperature and humidity fluctuations, and related condensation, the roofs of the stores needed to be insulated.

A professional Energy Options Appraisal concluded that solar panels on the Museum roof would reduce both financial costs and carbon emissions, and insulation of the stores would reduce costs of operating a de-humidifier.

The total project cost was around £36,500, and an award of £9,555 from the local Ventient Glenkerie Community Fund enabled the Museum to raise a larger matched grant of £27,013 from Museums Galleries Scotland.

The solar panel installation took place in July 2018. It is working well, is expected to have a life span of 25 years and to be virtually maintenance-free. The solar panels have reduced Museum electricity bills by at least 50% helping to control costs and improve the viability of the museum. In the longer term, the Museum hopes to invest in batteries, enabling the surplus energy to be stored and used on-site, which will reduce running costs further.

The insulation of the external stores has stopped condensation from the roof, providing a better environment for stored items.

The solar panels were installed by a specialist contractor and the work on the stores was done by a local building contractor, and the project overall enabled a ‘triple win’, promoting social, economic and environmental sustainability.