SCOTLAND’s energy minister has heralded the construction of a university’s £25 million green energy centre as a “visionary project”, which will be a significant asset to Scotland.

St Andrew’s University’s state-of-the-art biomass facility, which is currently is being built on the site of the former paper mill at Guardbridge – just outside of the town – will not only help the institution meet its aim of becoming carbon neutral, but also create hundreds of local jobs in the north east of Fife, it has been claimed. It is due to be operational by the end of the year.

The university has also promised the project will support apprenticeship and graduate training, creating about 225 jobs under what it has dubbed the “Guardbridge Guarentee”. The 6MW biomass centre will use only locally sourced wood from sustainable forests, creating green energy which will pump hot water four miles underground to St Andrews to heat and cool its labs and student residences. During a site visit to the University yesterday Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “St Andrews is leading the way with a visionary plan. This is a terrifically exciting project and a major investment.

“St Andrews is to be commended for their sustainable energy research centre which will be a significant asset for Scotland as well as for the University.”

The university’s acting chief executive Derek Watson said: “After years of planning and preparation the biomass plant is starting to take shape and will be operational by the end of the year. This represents a major strategic step for the university and underlines our commitment to becoming carbon neutral for energy.

“With the biomass at its heart, the former paper mill site is on the verge of a new lease of life which lends itself to the creation of a range of renewable energies and technologies which will keep the university among Europe’s leading research institutions.

“The Guardbridge project will breathe new life into local communities and re-establish the site as a key economic centre in Scotland, and has the capacity to generate hundreds of new jobs.”

However, the project has not been universally popular locally with recent pipe laying work leading to miles of tailbacks for more than six weeks.

It is backed by a £10m grant from the Scottish Funding Council, which is supporting carbon reduction schemes across Scottish Higher Education and will complement recently approved plans for a six-turbine 12MW wind power development on university land at Kenly, four miles east of St Andrews. The two projects aim to jointly reduce carbon emissions by 25,000 tonnes per annum.