Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick, East Lothian

Project: Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick, East Lothian

The installation of 90 Kingspan Environmental solar thermal vacuum tubes has provided an environmentally friendly, cost-effective water heating solution at the Scottish Seabird Centre, playing a key part in its sustainability drive.
A leading tourism attraction and independent charity in North Berwick, East Lothian, the Scottish Seabird Centre offers visitors an interactive experience with a Discovery Centre, gift shop and café. The Centre has won numerous national awards for its green tourism, as well as its eye-catching architecture, which has been designed to look like a nesting bird.
The 9m2 installation of Kingspan’s HP200 solar thermal collectors is helping to dramatically reduce energy costs and carbon emissions as part of the Centre’s ongoing environmental initiative, Plan Green Zero. This plan has also seen the building fitted with a host of other sustainable technologies, such as a wind turbine and solar PV panels.
The market-leading Thermomax tubes were specified to pre-heat water that feeds into the gas boiler system – providing up to 70 percent of the annual hot water needs of the centre’s cafeteria and kitchen. The installation is expected to contribute 6MWh to the Centre’s hot water system each year, helping to avoid more than 1,600kg of carbon emissions in the process.
The tubes were specified and fitted by Kinross-based renewables supplier and installer, Glendevon Energy. It was presented with the challenge of specifying solar thermal technology for the Centre’s curved copper roof, without impacting on the aesthetic profile of the building or surrounding conservation area. Director Jamie Adams advises: “We opted for Thermomax collectors because they were able to complement the specific design elements of the project perfectly, while still delivering the highest quality performance to meet the Centre’s hot water needs.
“As the building is part of a protected conservation area, we had to ensure we met specific planning requirements. The Thermomax vacuum tubes allowed us to do just this, matching the roof’s curved form seamlessly and integrating discreetly with the centre’s unique design. Being a copper roof, we also had to consider that it expands and contracts as the temperature changes, so we worked with an expert to install specialist anchor points. As a finishing touch, we were even able to paint the non-glass area of the vacuum tubes to match its distinctive copper colour.”
Thermomax tubes are specifically designed to operate in Northern European climates, making them the ideal choice for the Scottish Seabird Centre. Up to 50 percent more efficient than traditional flat plate equivalents, they deliver an unrivalled transfer of solar energy into heat, as the vacuum inside each tube insulates the system from outside influences – such as windy, wet or cold weather. This results in quality performance all year round, with the vacuum tubes collecting the sun’s energy quickly and efficiently, ensuring solar-heated water is always readily available.
Charlie Marshall, fundraising and business development manager, Scottish Seabird Centre, says: “We decided to go down the route of installing solar thermal tubes at the Centre largely because we wanted to offset the long-term, and inevitable, fuel price rises as well as extend the life of our boilers by easing their workload.
“We received excellent customer service from the teams at both Glendevon Energy and Kingspan Environmental. With minimal space for installing the required cylinder, the team rose to the challenge and found a solution that suited all parties involved, without any fuss.”
Cameron Holroyd, managing director, Kingspan Environmental, says: “We’re delighted Kingspan has been able to play such an important role in the Scottish Seabird Centre’s Plan Green Zero initiative. Despite the initial challenging requirements of the installation, the vacuum tubes not only fit aesthetically with the building’s unique design, they also effectively and efficiently met the Centre’s hot water needs. This is proof that, in today’s market, renewables really are a versatile, viable and effective option for all types of buildings. It is also a shining example of a retrofit project that has successfully and discreetly integrated a number of low- and zero-carbon technologies to deliver substantial cost savings and a significantly reduced carbon footprint.”