Loch Ness Hub

Loch Ness Hub
Project name:
Loch Ness Hub
Technology: 5.2 kWp Solar photovoltaic (PV) system and a 7kW air source heat pump
Location: Drumnadrochit, Inverness-shire
CARES funding: £15,626 capital grant
Date installed/operational: March 2021

Background

During 2017 and 2018, led by Soirbheas, a steering group of local community representatives and stakeholders from Drumnadrochit developed a local energy plan.

A transport study followed this, which identified the former Tourist Information Centre building as an ideal potential location for a local transport hub from which transport projects and services such as community transport and ebikes could be run

An energy report by Zero Waste Scotland also highlighted opportunities for the community building to improve its energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint.

Glenurquhart Rural Community Association (GURCA) received a mandate from the community to seek to take-over the building. GURCA led the Community Asset Transfer process and the purchase of the building from The Highland Council was completed in February 2021. Meanwhile, In addition to grant funding, a Community Share offer was also successful, raising £110,000 through sale of shares in the business.

Loch Ness Hub logoThe building is now Loch Ness Hub, a newly renovated visitor information centre incorporating Loch Ness Travel, a baggage handling and transfer service for walkers of the Great Glen Way, Affric – Kintail Way and Loch Ness 360. It aims to be a one-stop shop for information, tours and tickets for attractions in the area. It will also be a community transport hub promoting health walks and greener modes of transport such as ebikes.

Project aims and objectives

GURCA responded to the CARES funding call in the summer of 2020, seeking funding to install low carbon technologies at the building.

GURCA’s project had three objectives:

  1. To install solar PV panels to generate renewable electricity that would power the building and its heating system, reducing the building’s operating costs. 
  2. To install insulation and new windows to improve the building’s energy efficiency.
  3. To install an air source heat pump and LED lighting to reduce the building’s energy use and reduce its energy costs. 

The project also aimed to serve as an example to the community of what is possible in community buildings such as this, which may encourage other new installations in the community.

Project outcomes and achievements 

5.2kWp solar photovoltaic (PV) array was installed on the building’s roof. A 7kW air source heat pump was also installed to provide heating.

Lessons learned

Russell Fraser, manager of Loch Ness Hub, identified several key learning points. These are summarised below.

  • “Make sure that you agree who the funding recipient is, and that the funder is clear about who invoices should be made out to. We had an issue with GURCA/Loch Ness Hub.”
  • “We had enough contingency in the end, but make sure you allow for contingency to deal with interface issues - we had an issue between the new toilets and the air source heat pump system.”
  • Grid connection agreements - be sure to know when one of these is required and who is dealing with relevant aspects.
  • Ensure the project time frame is manageable, including that time is built in for acquiring quotes, planning and building warrant consent.
  • Study the steps required for RHI connection as it is a lengthy process.
  • Where possible, use one contractor when combining with other building works.

Russell said: “Timing was the single biggest challenge we faced. Pushing companies for quotes, supply and installation was very time consuming.”

Russell added: “Loch Ness Hub is extremely grateful to CARES for the support that we received. The funding has facilitated major improvements to the community asset, allowing us to deliver a green-energy, sustainable building, not only for its opening to the public, but also for the years ahead.”

Find out more about Loch Ness Hub.