The CoRE project will reduce energy bills for local businesses and communities, leading to a regional reduction in the number of people living in fuel poverty. The project will create new jobs, apprenticeships and space for new economic activities allowing enterprises to be created in a deprived area.
What is CoRE?
CoRE aims to take a whole community, examine how it works, and find ways to transform all aspects of life in that community to cut emissions and reach national and international targets for a zero carbon economy.
CoRE will tackle all aspects of our everyday infrastructure, making positive changes to how we:
- heat and power our homes and public buildings
- travel – both privately and on public transport
- manufacture and transport our goods
- run our businesses
- construct our buildings using sustainable, heat efficient and recyclable materials
- manage our natural resources and landscape to absorb carbon and produce sustainable energy
The project will tackle the local transport network by increasing the EV (electric vehicle) infrastructure, enhancing active travel routes to encourage walking, cycling and public transport use, looking at hydrogen and biofuels for buses and HGVs and improving the connectivity and range for EVs between communities.
A key aspect of the project is to use East Ayrshire’s existing natural assets for generating energy.
The project area is home to vast former deep and open cast mining sites and a number of highly successful wind farms.
CoRE will explore the use of our former mining sites for extracting heat from rocks underground, coal bings or from minewaters. This heat can be used to form local heating networks, and the waters also provide opportunities to create hydrogen production plants.
East Ayrshire produces more wind energy than is needed in the area. CoRE will explore ways in which we can use this excess wind energy within our local communities at a low price.
The project will deliver a Centre of Excellence in Energy Systems Research, two Demonstrator Houses (located on the site of the Centre of Excellence) and a programme of Demonstrator projects over the project’s lifetime (eight years).
CoRE presents a unique opportunity for East Ayrshire to pioneer ways of helping communities to move to a low carbon future, improving living standards through reduced costs and more energy efficient housing, creating education, training and job opportunities while furthering scientific, engineering and technological understanding and skills and contributing to the Scottish Government’s Net Zero target.
How is CoRE funded?
CoRE is funded with £17 million from the UK Government and £7.5 million from East Ayrshire Council as part of the Ayrshire Growth Deal investment.
What are the features of CoRE?
Based at a site at Knockroon, between the towns of Cumnock and Auchinleck, the Centre of Excellence in Energy Systems Research will sit beside two Demonstrator Houses.
The Centre will include internal and external workshop/lab space for multi-disciplinary research. Accommodating PHD students and researchers, they will test and trial new technologies and ideas for transitioning a community to low carbon.
Also included in the building will be innovation space for businesses who will work with the researchers in order to bring their products/technologies to market.
A large community engagement space will allow for interaction between the local communities, centre staff, and the national and international low carbon sector.
One house will be for the public/local communities to see and try the new technologies being developed in the Centre within a domestic setting. It will showcase how these low carbon technologies would look, feel and operate within a home with a view to encouraging the public to take up these technologies in their own homes and businesses.
The second house will be used by the researchers for testing and trial purposes.
A programme of Demonstrator projects (a series of low carbon projects within the community) will be undertaken over CoRE’s 10 year lifespan.
These projects will look at solving local, East Ayrshire, issues with switching to low carbon. Examples of these include increasing the EV infrastructure, looking at how off-gas grid communities can be low carbon, retrofitting existing Council houses, and tackling fuel poverty.
What are the aims of the CoRE?
Our objectives for the project are:
- develop the energy system of the future
- create a nationally significant and distinctive Centre of Excellence for energy systems research
- support the development and delivery highly innovative storage, generation and distribution systems to create a flexible, locally distributed grid which enables communities to be energy self-sufficient
- attract new business, create employment and academic opportunities and foster economic activity to achieve inclusive growth in the region
- make Ayrshire and Scotland pioneers in renewable energy technology and contribute to Scotland becoming a net zero society by 2045 (or sooner)
- tackle inequality by reducing household energy bills, minimising fuel poverty and improving the efficiency of energy supply, using a highly integrated smart grid energy network
Where will CoRE be built?
The Centre of Excellence building will be located at Knockroon on land which sits between the new Barony Campus and The Prince’s Foundation Knockroon Housing Development.
The Demonstrator projects will take place across the East Ayrshire local authority area.
Cumnock is the second largest settlement in East Ayrshire, supporting a number of surrounding communities stretching from Dalmellington in the south to Muirkirk in the east.
In demographic terms, Cumnock is typical of other post-industrial towns across Scotland, with high levels of fuel poverty and deprivation.
Cumnock and the surrounding area have a long history of mineral extraction, with deep mining and, most recently, opencast coal mining. In 2013, after decades of decline in the mining industry as a whole, two out of three opencast coal operators went into liquidation.
This left 300 local people without their livelihoods and around 2,000 hectares of land unrestored. Since then, the affected communities have found it difficult to recover and have failed to attract new industry to the area.
With the national agenda switching to non-fossil fuels, interest in the Cumnock area has turned to renewable energy. As a result windfarms have become a notable part of the landscape.
Over the last five years, the number of windfarms in the area has grown significantly meaning that the area is generating more energy than is needed locally. Windfarm companies are being curtailed and with no strategic direction, community benefits monies are not addressing the levels of deprivation in the Cumnock area.
A key driver for CoRE is to make sure that the community are experiencing the associated benefits that the renewable energy industry can bring to the economy of the area – for example, lower energy bills, jobs and meaningful investment in communities.
To overcome some of Cumnock’s economic challenges, East Ayrshire Council, local organisations and the community have been working collaboratively to bring about a transformation. Of particular note is the development of the new Barony Campus, which incorporates two primary and two secondary schools, an additional support needs unit, a national Rugby School of Excellence, early years education and extensive community facilities for the arts and sport.
Sitting next door to the CoRE Centre of Excellence site, and built to Passivhaus standards, the campus is an inclusive learning environment with state-of-the-art facilities for children and young people across the Cumnock area.
On the other side of the CoRE site, The Prince’s Foundation have also begun the construction of their Knockroon eco-friendly housing development which demonstrates high quality design and sustainability principles.
Building on the work undertaken so far, CoRE represents the next step in Cumnock’s transformation. A huge driver for this project is the community benefit it can bring to the area.
Critically, it will assist communities to generate, use and store their own low carbon energy and help to address fuel poverty through reduced energy bills. The project will improve the active travel network, helping to reconnect communities with each other and give communities access to a low carbon transport system. By attracting new, innovative businesses to the area, new jobs will be created – in turn reducing unemployment.
With its community at the heart of CoRE, Cumnock can be Scotland’s first truly sustainable town. An equitable place with a fair and just energy system that boosts the opportunities, capability, economy, health and wellbeing of its communities.
When will work start?
Construction for the Centre of Excellence building and two Demonstrator Houses will begin in early 2023, with completion in early 2024.
What will the centre of Excellence house?
The Centre of Excellence will house:
- internal and external workshop/lab space for multi-disciplinary research accommodating PHD students from around the country
- innovation and incubation office space for businesses
- community scale “living lab”/demo space with conference facilities
- built to the highest sustainability standards (Passivhaus)
- two demonstrator houses
- low carbon travel hub (offering electric vehicles, charging points and active travel network)
What technologies will the Centre of Excellence use?
Technologies that will be available within the Centre of Excellence:
- large battery
- series of boreholes for geothermal research
- thermal store
- hydrogen pad
- ground source heat pump
- variety of electric vehicle charging places within the public car park as well as for research purposes in the external workshop space
- solar PV on the roof of the Centre and Demonstrator Houses
- low carbon transport hub – electric vehicles (bikes, potentially small vehicles) available for public use
What will happen in the Research Hubs?
The Hubs will provide a base for researchers – where they can test and demonstrate the various interconnected technologies to find new ways for local communities to exploit the opportunities of energy transition.
The aim is to find local solutions that can be easily transferred and shared with other areas of the UK and the world.
There will be six research hubs in total:
- Smart energy IT – this hub will develop smart kits for connection, integration and optimisation of energy assets within the local energy system. Researchers will be able to put forward proposals for a “virtual power plant” platform – using software to co-ordinate local energy demands with local energy generation.
- Smart transport and public realm – this will examine how to decarbonise the transport system within the Cumnock area by promoting active travel and identifying how people can use zero carbon transport more easily. A low carbon and active travel network will be established between the towns in the area. The hub will also support local tourism through active or low carbon travel corridors connecting local heritage sites and tourism businesses in the area.
- Smart building systems and generation – this will develop and test new ways to minimise energy use within buildings. Research will be tailored to work with existing and new buildings and renewable energy opportunities within the local area.
- Smart hydrogen hub – this will investigate the role of hydrogen and how it can be produced, stored and used for power generation and to run buildings, transport and communities.
- Smart earth, geology and circular economy hub – this will explore the potential for generating energy from former industrial sites, mine waters, heat from rock, coal waste heaps (bings) and waste treatment facilities around Cumnock, New Cumnock and Auchinleck. Researchers will work closely with British Geological Survey.
- Socio-economic, health and wellbeing hub – this will have a social, economic and health focus into the wider impacts of the transition to zero carbon and its associated activities. This hub will look into reducing fuel poverty in the area. Researchers will ensure that lessons are learned and best practice is replicated across the UK.
What demonstrator projects are planned?
A programme of demonstrator projects will be undertaken during the lifetime of CoRE (eight years) and these will help communities switch to a low carbon future and contribute to the Scottish Government’s climate change targets.
A couple of early examples include:
- Electric vehicle charging hub project – this project aims to create a local charging grid or network to power East Ayrshire Council and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s growing electric vehicle fleets. This will be achieved by first harnessing and storing excess wind energy produced in the Cumnock area and then distributing the stored energy within a local charging network.
- Transitioning a listed building – working in partnership with the Council’s regeneration team, this project will aim to transition a historic building in Mauchline to low carbon, with enhancements to the building’s fabric and the installation of renewable energy technologies and smart systems. This will be an exemplar project, complimenting the existing extensive regeneration work of the Council through its Conservation Area Regeneration Schemes (CARS) and other initiatives.
- Barshare retrofit housing scheme – working in partnership with University of Strathclyde, this project will look to retrofit some of the older housing in Barshare and incorporate renewable technologies on homes so that they can become low carbon. EV charging infrastructure will also be installed within the area allowing for communities to use low carbon vehicles. Monitoring and evaluation will be undertaken to understand the experiences of residents before and after the retrofit changes have taken place to ascertain the economic and social benefits of the low carbon transition.
Who will use the Centre of Excellence?
The following will use the Centre of Excellence:
- Academic staff (researchers and PHD students) – University of Strathclyde researchers and PHD students will use the internal and external lab/workshop space to test and trial new technologies and their integration with SMART technologies.
- Commercial business -office space will be available for businesses specialising in technology, renewable energy, engineering, low carbon transport, hydrogen and geothermal. Working together with the academics, they will bring new ideas and technologies to market. The Centre will also offer business support services tailored to the low carbon sector.
- Community – the Centre will be open to members of the public who wish to see demonstration of the new technology and to visit the Demonstrator Homes to experience a low carbon home and to enjoy the outdoor space of the Centre. It will be a low carbon travel hub where communities and the public can hire bikes/electric bikes and travel to heritage destinations across East Ayrshire. Community groups will also be encouraged to use the expertise on offer to seek advice and support on developing their own community energy projects.
What will CoRE contribute to the Cumnock area?
CoRE will bring many opportunities to Cumnock and the surrounding area. East Ayrshire communities will be at the forefront of the low carbon transition and will be among the first to use the technologies developed in the Centre for their own personal use or for a community project.
The project will increase the offering of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education within Ayrshire and will work in partnership with The Prince’s Foundation, Ayrshire College and all East Ayrshire schools in developing STEM programmes from early years to further education.
It will also encourage both national and local businesses to offer apprenticeships and work experience within the renewable energy sectors to the young people of Ayrshire. The Centre of Excellence will also become a “school trip” destination. The outdoor woodland within the site – known as the Wee Wood project – will also be used for primary health and wellbeing programmes.
New business and industry will be attracted to the area, bringing job opportunities for local communities. The project will help existing businesses adapt and grow within the low carbon sector, enhancing the capabilities of the supply chain. The Centre will support Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to transition to low carbon whether it be in redesigning the products they manufacture, the processes they deliver, their physical environment or their daily operating activities.
The project will enhance the active travel network in the south of East Ayrshire while also encouraging low carbon travel. Each community will have a travel hub which will host electric vehicles, for example bikes, charging areas and will hold information about the local area to celebrate East Ayrshire’s heritage. Through the active travel network, the project will promote the importance of health and wellbeing.
Transitioning our historic buildings
Demonstrator project will convert a listed building to as low carbon as possible whilst being sympathetic to its historic and architectural value. This will be one of the first projects of its kind and knowledge gained from this would influence similar work across Scotland.
What are the community benefits of CoRE?
The community benefits of CoRE are as follows:
- £24.5 million allocated to CoRE with opportunities to bring additional funding to the East Ayrshire area
- East Ayrshire communities will be at the forefront of the low carbon transition in Scotland combined with efforts to reduce fuel poverty, meaning they will be some of the first communities to benefit from technologies developed in the Centre
- Joint approach by academics, businesses and the Council to ensure a “just transition” using the new technologies and reducing their own carbon footprint
- New business and industry will be attracted to the area, with new job opportunities created for local people
- Business diversification promoted for low and zero carbon technologies
- Community access to low carbon transport network – enhancing travel opportunities for East Ayrshire residents
- Opportunity to reuse vacant and derelict land for community renewable energy projects
- Local communities can access the Centre of Excellence for advice on the low carbon transition, help with developing community energy projects and to identify match funding opportunities from professional staff
- Communities will feed into and take part in the programme of Demonstrator projects – all Demonstrator projects will have a focus on the aspirations of local communities