Salt Ayre Leisure Centre is Lancaster City Council’s single largest CO2 emitter, producing 35% of the council's natural gas emissions.
The council was successful in securing £6.8M from BEIS under the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) to completely decarbonise the leisure centre. The city council was the largest recipient of any district authority under the PSDS and the third largest recipient in the North West.
This innovative decarbonisation project replaces all of the centre’s gas boilers with air source heat pumps connected to a 1.3MWp solar array on an adjacent landfill site owned by the council. The old glazing units will be replaced to improve the thermal efficiency of the building and LED lighting will be installed across the grounds of the site. The project team are working to deliver the full scheme by December 2021.
The project will save 642 tonnes of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of heating around 600 homes. The 1.3MWp solar array will reduce the centre’s reliance on the grid by up to 30%, and when combined with the council’s recently-negotiated REGO-backed electricity tariff from 1st April 2021, will see the leisure centre reach carbon neutrality once the scheme is delivered.
The highly ambitious plans, extremely tight timescales and complex nature of the project has challenged officers to develop creative solutions to problems and expedite process and decision making, pulling together all internal and external stakeholders to develop a comprehensive and dynamic delivery plan.
The council has engaged with industry experts and consultants to support with feasibility, modelling and planning to deliver the council’s first renewable energy scheme.
The funding success and pace at which officers have worked to deliver the project has demonstrated the agility at which local authorities can work and has been an impressive achievement considering the constraints associated with such a complex scheme. All of which was completed amid a national pandemic.
The starting point for any successful strategy is understanding the current position. Officers spent several months gathering data from multiple sources to create a comprehensive CO2 Dashboard in order to take a targeted, prioritised approach to decarbonisation.
Once developed, reviews of the council's Top 10 CO2-emitting properties took place and decarbonised heating solutions were developed to replace the current gas heating systems – many of which are aging and scheduled for replacement. Thermal efficiency improvements have also taken place to review what action can be taken to reduce energy consumption on site.
It was the proactive and early work that provided us with an opportunity to bid for Phase 1 Public Sector Decarbonisation funding to transform Salt Ayre Leisure Centre into a carbon neutral facility.
For Lancaster, it's been about gathering the data and understanding the current position; prioritising resource and effort on the largest CO2 emitters; and then getting organised to review and deliver practical solutions. This has placed us in a good position for funding opportunities, especially where delivery timescales are tight.
What we've learnt from this project specifically is that building on landfill sites is tough! Whilst they lend themselves to solar generation - little else can be done with them - it doesn't come without complex challenges.
Engagement with stakeholders is also key. Working closely with your Local Distribution Network Operators (DNO) has been critical. It's a complex business, so engagement with grid consultants can also help smooth the process and lead to success. The DNO can either make or break a renewable energy project, so don't commit too much resource until you know what options are available.