Savings from Wick heat scheme will be 'unbelievably substantive'
Savings made by householders who are linked to Wick's low-carbon district heating scheme will be "unbelievably substantive", according to Highland Council leader Raymond Bremner.
In an update to Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council this week he pointed out that the project is continuing to grow, with up to 300 properties now connected.
"And that's just the beginning," Councillor Bremner said. "If you take that at an average of 2.5 people to a property in some of these houses, and multiply that up, that's how many people will get the benefit of it."
He has previously estimated there is potential for almost 950 homes across both sides of the town to be part of the sustainable energy centre operated by Ignis Wick Ltd beside Pulteney Distillery, cutting heating and hot water bills by thousands of pounds a year in some cases.
"The savings that you might actually see will be unbelievably substantive," Councillor Bremner told community councillors at their November meeting on Monday night. "What I think we were all looking for was to mitigate the cost of fuel and the cost of living for so many of the people that we've got in our community here in Wick.
"For a good number of them, that's now happening. We've looked at it in different phases now and, if at all possible, we are looking to take it across the river and there are another several hundred places over there that belong to the council.
"But Ignis is talking to private owners as well, in between these properties."
He added that it was important to "future-proof" the system.
Councillor Bremner toured the Ignis plant in March last year. He heard that it was providing heating and hot water to around 200 homes in Pulteneytown as well as to Caithness General Hospital and the Assembly Rooms, and supplying steam to the distillery.
"I honestly did not think that when I sat and spoke to their manager this is where we would be two years down the line," he told community councillors.
"One lady was paying £80 for a bag of coal every week of the year – that's over £4000. She has now saved nearly £3500 after having the district heating system put in."
Councillor Bremner also mentioned the prospect of a biomass heating system in Thurso "and the possibility of other towns and villages throughout the Highland area".
During his visit to the Ignis plant in 2022 Councillor Bremner was shown the process for burning hundreds of tonnes of locally sourced wood chip each month and how the heat was distributed through a 10.5km network of underground pipes.