Technologies: air source heat pumps, solar PV array, solar water heaters, energy storage

Location: Lesmahagow, South Lanarkshire

CARES funding: £50,750 capital grant

Date installed/operational: 25 March 2022


ISKCON Scotland is the Scottish branch of ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and was registered as a charity in 1989. It is dedicated to caring for people and the planet and aims to improve people’s lives physically, emotionally and spiritually; and to help our planet and the environment.

At its headquarters in Lesmahagow, South Lanarkshire, there are several buildings including a temple, community kitchen, yoga barn and a function hall. It welcomes around 5,000 people each year and since the pandemic began, it has distributed more than 34,000 community meals from its onsite kitchen.

The charity started a significant decarbonisation project at its Lesmahagow headquarters in 2010. This project included converting an old barn into a cosy community function hall, known as Gouranga Hall. With funding support from the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) it installed:

  • two 11kW Gaia wind turbines to generate electricity
  • a 50kW biomass boiler to provide heat to the hall and temple
  • solar thermal panels to supply hot water to Gouranga Hall
  • an air source heat pump to heat the greenhouse, allowing crops to grow all year round.

The project culminated in the grand opening of its therapeutic, organic eco farm in 2012.

Since this time, a spokesperson for ISKCON Scotland reports that despite having a large biomass boiler, it wasn’t always cost effective for their needs and required a high degree of manpower and effort to prepare and store the large amounts of wood needed. As a result, the biomass boiler was used to heat the function hall, but a gas boiler was still used to heat its temple.

Furthermore, since the expansion of its Food for Scotland project during the pandemic, the charity realised it was using a lot more gas to heat up water for cooking. Most of the energy generated by its windmills was going back to the grid because it couldn’t afford storage batteries or a renewable heating system to be powered by them.

A spokesperson explains that “when we found out about the Let’s Do Net Zero Community Buildings Fund from CARES, we thought it was a perfect opportunity to continue decarbonising our site. By installing more renewables we would also contribute to Scotland’s net zero plans, and it would help us increase the number of visitors that could benefit from our wellbeing and educational services.”

By installing more renewables we would also contribute to Scotland’s net zero plans, and it would help us increase the number of visitors that could benefit from our wellbeing and educational services.

ISKCON Scotland spokesperson

Project aims and objectives

The charity wanted to continue to decarbonise its buildings and install more renewable technologies to build on its net zero plans.

ISKCON Scotland contacted Zero Waste Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Business Support Service (now Business Energy Scotland), for advice. It recommended installing air source heat pumps and solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays with battery storage at each community building. These renewable installations would reduce the organisation’s carbon emissions by an estimated 9.8 tonnes each year.

Outcomes and achievements

In the summer of 2021, ISKCON Scotland applied to the Let’s Do Net Zero Community Buildings Fund from CARES. It received a capital grant of £50,750 towards the cost of installing two air source heat pumps, two solar PV arrays and two battery storage systems. The total cost of the project was £72,100, before VAT.

The charity chose local installer SHS Heating and Renewables, based in Carluke, because of their experience of installing and servicing renewable technologies.

After carrying out a full technical survey, the installer suggested adding an additional air source heat pump to provide more heat load, resulting in a total of four air source heat pumps. The cost of these additional pumps was covered within the original budget.

In order to maximise the efficiency of the heat pumps, the organisation needed to upgrade its entire pipe system in the building that houses the temple, kitchen and volunteer quarters. This was self-funded, but the charity considered it a necessary investment to achieve its decarbonisation goals.

The following technologies were successfully installed across two buildings:

  • four air source heat pumps
  • 2 x 6kW solar PV arrays
  • 2 x 8kW energy storage batteries.

two air source heat pumps at ISKCON Scotland's community building complex


Solar panels on the roof at ISKCON Scotland's building complex

Gouranga Hall’s heat pumps are controlled by an internal control system or mobile uplink facility. Within this building, heating and hot water can also be provided by the biomass boiler. This is now an automatic system which means that if the biomass boiler has been switched on, the heat pump system switches off. In order to offset costs, the heat pumps are powered by one of the wind turbines as well as the new 6kW solar PV array, which stores any excess power generated in the 4.8kW battery storage system.

In the other community building, the two heat pumps were installed and docked with an existing LPG gas boiler. A new control system can “pull in” the LPG on request, whenever this would be a more cost-effective option – for example, in extremely cold temperatures when the heat pump might become less efficient. This system also benefits from the same biomass system as the Gouranga Hall. The kitchen also benefited from a new hot water system with increased pressure, which is powered by a solar water tank. To offset the costs, a 6kW solar PV array was installed on the roof alongside 4.8kW of battery storage.

The charity expects the carbon emissions from its community buildings to reduce by 42% and to see a reduction in its energy bills too.

A spokesperson for ISKCON Scotland said: “our community is delighted that we can continue demonstrating and exemplifying our ecological goals. The community buildings with the new renewable technologies will continue to provide wellbeing and care for our visitors.

“We also expect to see a significant increase of interest in our eco project and be able to offer more opportunities for people to come and learn about low-carbon lifestyles from us. Moreover, we are planning to introduce eco-tours at the farm to showcase our eco-technologies to visitors.”

Lessons learned

The spokesperson identified several lessons learned during its latest renewable project.

“The most challenging thing about delivering this project was the situation with the pandemic. For example, it affected the supply chain. Our installer couldn’t get batteries until mid-March 2022, which meant these were the last things to be installed. Also, on at least two occasions, project workers got COVID-19 which slowed down the delivery of the project. These were challenges beyond our control.

“In addition to these issues, the installer had a few other projects running at the same time. However, we were lucky that they prioritised our project and put a lot of energy into it because of the sensitivity of the timescale.

“Despite these challenges, however, our installer continued with the project and we were very pleased with their professional approach and ability to navigate through these challenges.”

Find out more about ISKCON Scotland.