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Community / Progress being made on Brae rural energy hub project

A concept drawing of the rural energy hub at the Brae Youth Centre by Colin Ross Workshop.

WORK is said to be progressing on plans to create a “rural energy hub” in Brae.

The pilot project aims to undertake improvements to the Brae Youth Centre, making it more energy efficient, while also adding new facilities and services to demonstrate the concept of a Rural Energy Hub.

These will include shared working spaces, rapid charging facilities, renewable energy generation, a car club and an e-bikes location.

Charging points for electric buses and HGVs, enabling them to undertake longer routes, are also being considered, along with local heating solutions.

One element of the wider project is to explore whether a district heating system could work in Brae.

Brae district heating design work and electric bus trial part of new energy and transport hub pilot

The project is a joint one between Shetland Islands Council, Orkney Islands Council, Aquatera, The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and Community Energy Scotland. A hub is also expected to be created in Orkney.

The wider project has secured £5 million funding from government agency Innovate UK to support decarbonisation efforts in Shetland and Orkney.

There will also be services based in the Brae hub to support individuals and businesses to decarbonise their homes and businesses, such as through electric cars and chargers, solar and batteries and low carbon heating options.

Those involved in the project have been working “very closely” with the Brae Youth Centre (BYC) committee to incorporate existing facilities with future plans.

One of the main priorities is to make the building as future-proofed as possible by retrofitting insulation and the installation of an efficient heating system.

Renewables such as solar and battery storage are also being considered.

A number of meetings have taken place over the last three months to set out an infrastructure plan for the refit of the Brae hub along with a business model and governance plan.

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There has been engagement from various groups and users of the building including the BYC committee, the Brae Youth Club, Astral Aerials and the Living Well Hub.

The team behind the project said that on completion of the project, it is intended that the Brae Youth Centre will be a “multi-functional service provider: an educator, a social support system, a workplace, an information centre, and a place of welcome and fun”.

Meanwhile the rural energy hubs team will be attending the Shetland Climate Festival on Saturday (15 June) at the Clickimin Bowls Hall in Lerwick, where people can find out more information.

Shetland Islands Council’s climate change strategy team leader Claire Ferguson said: “It’s great to see the Brae Rural Energy Hub project progressing, and the high level of engagement and input from The Brae Youth Centre Committee and the community.

“Since the project began in February, we have been collaborating with the Brae Youth Club Committee to map the multiple existing uses of the Brae Youth Centre with the new activities that the Rural Energy Hub will bring; and the improvements to the infrastructure of the Brae Hall that will be put in place to support all the uses of the building.

“Progress is also being made on the wider elements of the project, including the transport connectivity review of the North Mainland, the Brae District Heating Scheme Feasibility Study and the Electric Bus Pilot.

“We’re delighted to have an opportunity to speak about the Rural Energy Hub project in more detail at the Shetland Climate Festival.”

The Brae Youth Centre committee added: “We, the Brae Youth Centre committee, are excited at the proposed upgrades to our community centre, giving us the ability to offer more inclusive space for all types of activities.

“The introduction of the Rural Energy Hub in our area is a fantastic and important opportunity. The project plan being to promote and offer information and facilities to reduce our carbon footprint.”

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