Historic church set to heat building using clean energy harnessed direct from the River Clyde - reducing carbon emissions by over 90% and saving 20% in energy bills

A group dedicated to preserving and promoting one of the most renowned collections of early medieval sculptures in Europe has been awarded a grant of £150,000 by SP Energy Networks’ Net Zero Fund to make vital sustainable upgrades to the home of the archaeological site in the heart of Govan.

Govan Heritage Trust, which the University of Glasgow's Professor Stephen Driscoll helped set up, is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of Govan Old Church – a Grade A listed building on the banks of the River Clyde – and will use the funding to install a new river source heat pump, resulting in a 93% reduction in carbon emissions and a 20% saving in energy costs.

Professor Driscoll said: "‘This grant from the Net Zero fund is so welcome, because heating an historic building like Govan Old economically and in an environmentally responsible way has been a major challenge. Back in 1888 when Govan Old church was opened, its voluminous space was heated using cheap and plentiful coal but when we began the refurbishment we discovered that there was no received wisdom about sustainable alternative sources of heat for Victorian buildings, even if they were Gothic revival masterpieces.

"We quickly came to appreciate that this was problem facing a great many historic buildings, so apart from making our building more comfortable we hope that the new river source heat pump will serve as an example of how new technology can contribute to making historic buildings comfortable while being environmentally responsible."

Professor Driscoll, also a Trustee of Govan Heritage Trust, added: "As an archaeologist it is particularly gratifying to have received this support from outwith the heritage sector; SP Energy Networks Net Zero ’s grant serves as validation for the years of work undertaken by staff and students from the University of Glasgow who have determinedly laboured to promote the historical significance and the continuing social value of this church. We very much hope that making it more comfortable will allow it to resume its position at the heart of the Govan community and contribute to Govan’s urban regeneration."

The trust is one of the recipients of SP Energy Networks’ Net Zero Fund – a £5million funding pot designed to support vulnerable communities across Central and Southern Scotland and ensure no one is left behind on the country’s journey to net zero emissions.

Following the closure of Govan Old Church in 2007, the community-run trust took over ownership of the listed building and the Govan Stones, a collection of early medieval carved stones dating back to the Viking era. Many archaeologists consider it one of the most important historic sites in Glasgow.

The stones were first discovered in the churchyard in 1855, however several were accidentally destroyed in the 1980s when they were mistaken for debris during the demolition of a neighbouring shipyard. Since then, a community effort has been placed on maintaining and restoring the site – with Professor Stephen Driscoll at the University of Glasgow leading the latest excavations just last year.

Now in community ownership, the church is currently being transformed into a museum to showcase the site’s heritage and expects to welcome over 14,000 visitors each year. The renovations will also offer a meeting space for local organisations and charities such as those catering for elderly and isolated members of the community, groups welcoming and supporting refugees, organisations working with Govan’s youth and local schools looking to learn about heritage.

Speaking on the support, Pat Cassidy, another Trustee of Govan Heritage Trust said: “The Govan Stones are one of Scotland’s most remarkable historic artifacts, and the church itself has become a landmark in the local community.

“This funding will allow us to make much-needed improvements to our current infrastructure. Not only will we be able to lower our emissions, but we’ll also benefit from a significant saving on our energy bills and be able to focus on the renovations and provide an affordable meeting space for local groups, charities, and organisations to use.

“Two of our longest-standing members, Robert and Catriona Preston, first met in the church back in 1956 when they were in the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade and even held their wedding here in 1962. To this day, they remain an active part of our community and it’s this sense of legacy that the funding will help us safeguard – ensuring both the people of Govan and visitors can make their own memories here for years to come.”

A host of charities and organisations supporting communities across Scotland have been awarded funding from SP Energy Networks’ Net Zero Fund to introduce innovative net zero technology.

Scott Mathieson, Network Planning and Regulation Director at SP Energy Networks, said: “The projects awarded in our first round of our Net Zero Fund are diverse and the ingenuity of these community led schemes is inspiring. We feel privileged to help them realise their net zero future.”

The groups will receive grants to help them decarbonise and reach their net zero targets sooner, with projects ranging from installation of solar panels and heat pumps to the purchase of electric vehicles and retrofitting listed buildings to increase energy efficiency. The next round of the Net Zero Fund is now open and is welcoming applications from eligible charities and community organisations. Alongside financial support, the fund also offers guidance and support through workshops tailored to community organisations and charities looking to take the next step on their decarbonisation journey.

Extracted from Glasgow University website, read more here

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