Dawyck becomes the first carbon neutral botanic garden in the UK

Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, today (Monday 19 May) launched a new hydro-electric scheme at Dawyck Botanic Garden in the Scottish Borders, making it the first carbon neutral botanic garden in the UK. 

The scheme, which has benefited from a £30,000 grant from EDF Energy’s Green Fund, will provide enough electricity to power both the Garden’s Visitor Centre as well as the year-round maintenance of the Garden’s infrastructure.  Heating for the Visitor Centre, which was built in 2008, is already provided by a sustainable biomass boiler.  Surplus electricity will be sold back to the national grid at times of low demand through the feed in tariff, creating a welcome new income source for Dawyck.

Dawyck House, which along with the Garden, once formed the grand Dawyck Estate, was one of the first houses in Scotland to have its own hydro electricity supply, which was in service during the late 19th to early 20th century.  The system was powered from the Scrape Burn, a tributary of the River Tweed, which runs through the Garden, close to the house.  The new hydro-electric system will be powered from the same burn.

On launching the project, the Mr Ewing said: “This project shows how Scotland is blessed with the natural resources suitable for hydro at all scales. In small scale schemes such as these we see the dual benefit of renewable energy as a means to reduce carbon emissions alongside cost savings. 

“The Dawyck Garden is a fantastic example of how different renewable technologies, hydro and the existing biomass boiler,  can work in tandem to produce a low carbon energy mix and help Scotland reach its ambitious national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.”

Simon Milne MBE, Regius Keeper of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said: “With increasing interest in sustainability issues, and the need to reduce carbon emissions as well as lessen running costs, the plan developed to install a modern micro-hydro system to provide Dawyck’s electricity. 

“Having looked at how electricity was generated in Victorian times, we combined past experience with modern technology to create a much more sustainable future for the Garden.  We now have heat and electricity generated from greener resources, and we are thrilled by the prospect of Dawyck being the first carbon neutral botanic garden in the UK.” 

By the time RBGE acquired the Garden in 1978, the Victorian system had long since been replaced by a supply from the National Grid and the remaining infrastructure had become a dysfunctional eyesore and was duly removed.  However, the existence of the historical Victorian system was such a strong indicator that electricity could once again be generated using the Scrape Burn to provide enough power for the site, and a comprehensive feasibility study confirmed that it was possible.  The modern scheme, which was designed and implemented by small-scale hydro developer, BabyHydro, is now fully functional and is expected to provide a supply of up to 11kW.

Dawyck Botanic Garden, which boasts 5-star Quality Assurance from VisitScotland, is one of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s three regional sites and welcomes approximately 30,000 visitors a year. 

This year is an incredibly important year for Scottish tourism as visitors from all over the world will converge to the country for a range of prestigious events including the Commonwealth Games, The Ryder Cup, and year-long Homecoming Scotland programme.  VisitScotland Regional Director Paula McDonald said: Dawyck Botanic Garden - an outstanding, 5-star Quality Assured visitor attraction - is leading the way in demonstrating the importance of innovative sustainable practices. It has already won a silver award under the Green Business Tourism Scheme in recognition of its achievements and the launch today of its micro hydro-electric scheme is further proof of its commitment to having a positive impact on the environment.  By becoming the first carbon neutral botanic garden in Scotland and the UK, Dawyck is setting a superb, inspirational example for tourism businesses to follow as they strive towards becoming ‘greener’ for this visitor season.”

Dawyck is home to one of Scotland’s finest tree collections including some of Britain’s oldest and tallest trees.  The 65-acre Garden offers woodland and burnside walks and is renowned for its seasonal displays of snowdrops, bluebells, rhododendrons, azaleas, Himalayan poppies and autumn colour.

Dawyck Botanic Garden is part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), a leading international research organisation delivering knowledge, education and plant conservation action in more than 80 countries around the world. In Scotland its four Gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan attract nearly a million visitors each year.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)