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November 24, 2010

Harvesting roof-tops

Most people look at a bus depot and see only a building where buses get parked. But there are some who look at the high, cavernous building and become unusually excited when they glance at the expansive roof and notice that it happens to be south facing. For these people don’t see a roof – they see only a field of potential energy (and cash) just waiting to be harvested. There is one such group in Portobello

Chris Marshall, Edinburgh Evening News

GREEN campaigners have unveiled plans to install solar panels on two of the city’s biggest bus depots and then sell the electricity produced back to the owners.
Pedal, a Portobello-based environmental organisation, hopes to install the equipment on Lothian Buses’ Marine and Seafield depots.

The group, which is bidding to turn Portobello into a “transition town” by lowering its CO2 emissions and moving away from dependence on fossil fuels, plans to then sell the electricity produced back to the bus company.

Pedal hopes to invest the money in local initiatives tackling social and environmental issues.

The organisation’s Charlotte Bickmore said: “What we’re hoping to do is put solar panels on to the depots with a view to producing electricity.

“We’re a community group aiming to reduce CO2 use. We want to do that in a number of different ways and this is one of the things we have been looking at.

“We’ve had meetings with Lothian Buses but things are still at an early stage.”

Pedal had won £72,000 worth of funding to build a 48-metre tall wind turbine which it had hoped to use to provide up to 100 per cent of the power for Lothian Buses’ Marine depot and its nearby Seafield engineering works.

The voluntary group, which includes a range of legal and finance experts among its 120 members, as well as those that work in the energy industry, wanted to use the income from the turbine to pay off the £500,000 project costs.

However, it now looks set to press ahead with the solar panels instead.

Iain Coupar, marketing director of Lothian Buses, said: “The idea is still at the planning stage and there’s still a measure of finding out what we can do and what we can’t.

“Pedal are driving this forward, but we’re having a look at it and we’re obviously hopeful that it will be successful and that we can get the panels up on the roof.”

Earlier this year, Pedal received £173,000 from the Scottish Government to fund jobs to implement schemes such as home insulation, skills courses and a community orchard.

It was one of 12 projects across the city which shared in about £1.4 million from the Scottish Government to help tackle C02 emissions.

Founded in 2005, Pedal hopes to reduce local dependence on fossil fuels by growing more food locally, generating local energy and creating more local jobs, preventing local residents from having to travel too far.