Atlantic Technological University (ATU) marked a significant step towards sustainability with the launch of its biomass heat centre and district heating network by Minister Simon Harris TD at the university's Donegal Letterkenny campus, showcasing a commitment to renewable energy and carbon reduction.

The retrofit works included improvements such as new triple-glazed windows, external wall cladding, roof finishes, heat recovery ventilation, LED lighting upgrades, and the installation of photovoltaic panels. The objective was to enhance the Building Energy Rating of the buildings and reduce energy consumption significantly.

The combined projects, with a total cost of €4.8m, are estimated to reduce ATU Donegal's building energy-derived carbon emissions by 24%. This significant reduction aligns with the national target of achieving a 51% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

Culture of innovation

Higher education minister Simon Harris commended ATU on its commitment to a sustainable future: “ATU has proven with its application for this biomass heat centre that there is a culture of innovation here, and I’m delighted to see their plans have now come to fruition with the delivery of this forward-thinking project.

“The university is known for engaging in pioneering projects that deliver tangible results and this project is a milestone in the journey we must all make to reduce our energy use."

Dr Orla Flynn, president of ATU, thanked Minister Simon Harris TD for his support in making universities greener: "Today marks a milestone in our journey towards a more sustainable future. The biomass centre is a testament to ATU's dedication to environmental stewardship and innovation in energy efficiency."

The new Biomass Heat Centre will generate hot water using woodchip as a renewable heat source. This system is projected to meet 80% of the heating needs for the teaching and learning building, contributing substantially to the university's carbon reduction goals.

The biomass centre launch represents ATU's commitment to leading the way in sustainable practices and environmental responsibility, setting a precedent for other educational institutions to follow suit in the pursuit of a greener future.

Significant energy efficiency retrofit projects

The biomass centre is the result of two significant energy efficiency retrofit projects completed by ATU Donegal in 2022 and 2023. These projects, the Deep Energy Retrofit of the teaching and learning building's third floor and the Medium Energy retrofit of the Scientific Research and Fire Technology building, were supported by the Higher Education Energy Efficiency and Decarbonisation Pathfinder Programmes (EEDPP) in 2020 and 2021.

The projects were supported by the EEDPP 2020 and 2021. The objective of the EEDPP programme is to work toward the attainment of the energy efficiency and decarbonisation targets outlined in the National Climate Action Plan.  

The programme is co-funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.