I’m sure that most of us have heard about the University’s proposal to build a wind farm 7 miles outside of St Andrews near Kingsbarns. The plan to construct wind turbines, each 100m tall, on University-owned land has been met with mixed feelings.
The wind farm would generate 12 megawatts of electricity, reduce the University’s carbon footprint by 18,000 tonnes per annum and help reach the university’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2016. All very environmentally friendly – but what will this mean for students?
Renewable energy itself is acknowledged as an enormous benefit to our society as fossil fuel stocks decrease and the climate changes. However, all types of renewable energy are met with controversy and wind power is no exception.
‘Stop Kenly Wind Farm’ posters scatter the villages close to the proposed site. Despite efforts by the University to include community residents from the beginning, not everyone is in favour of having six industrial turbines on their doorstep.
But what about the students? We will not be able to see or hear the wind turbines from St Andrews but the project itself will still have an impact upon us. As a significant part of the University, the students make up a large proportion of those who will be directly using the energy provided by the wind farm, in halls, in lecture rooms and in all university buildings. Although the current students won’t be here if the project goes ahead, the planning process may have indirect impacts upon us. For example, Roddy Yarr, the university’s Environment and Energy Manager, commented that Kenly forms part of an Energy and Climate Change Strategy, with the first section of this strategy focused on influencing a change in behaviour today.
He also said that “the rise in energy costs which have tripled over the past five years poses a significant financial risk. It is the rise in energy and resources that mean we would potentially have less funds available for routine maintenance, teaching and research infrastructure, our buildings and including student accommodation. Unless we are able to take more control of our costs and in particular the rise in energy, we will continue to be hampered by this cost burden.”
The project has suffered a recent setback as Fife council requested a scale down of plans due to a concern about the view from the far end of West Sands where some blades and blade tips are just visible. However, planners have put a positive spin on the decision, stating that the council have not ruled against the project per se therefore giving them further opportunity to develop a wind farm which appeals to as many of the local population as possible, including the students.
On the whole, the prospective impact of the wind farm seems much more important and controversial for the local community, and not the students, as we are not in quite such close proximity. However, because this is a University project the students will always be affected in some way and have a stake in it. Thus we need to make sure that the students are given their fair share of any benefits of the project, should it go ahead.