In 2008, when we established our environmental programme as one of our core business values, NATS signalled a shift in culture, putting environment at the heart of our operation for the first time, and setting the expectation for our employees to act responsibly in everything they do.
Alongside demanding targets to improve airspace efficiency, our biggest sustainability issue, we set stretching goals to address the environmental impacts of our estate; energy, water, waste management and recycling, our use of natural resources and the impact of our employees’ business and commuting travel.
Seven years on from those first targets, we’d like to share our progress on one of these areas of focus – energy reductions.
Since our baseline year of 2006, we’ve reduced energy consumption by more than 31% – an achievement we’re really proud of in our drive to reduce the impact we have on the environment. As a 24-hour, 365 day a year safety critical business, and with over 170 sites owned or managed by NATS this has not always been easy.
We’ve seen extraordinary reductions from a broad range of initiatives – including the installation of more efficient lighting, improving the way we heat and cool our buildings and the introduction of renewable power generation solutions. Compared to 2006, we’re saving enough energy to power 1,700 family homes a year!
Rise in renewables
The installation of photovoltaic (PV) solar power at a number of our sites is helping to reduce energy consumption from the grid. Over the past few years we’ve seen the installation of larger photovoltaic arrays (solar farms) at our remote sites as well, with plans in place for more.
The installation of a Biomass wood pellet boiler heating system at our Stornoway Radar station has dramatically reduced energy costs and carbon emissions, with similar projects underway at other sites.
We’ve also invested in the application of renewable energy technologies across our estate including wind, solar, heat pumps, anaerobic digestion and a number of other innovative solutions.
By pulsing the energy supply to lighting at our Prestwick Centre car park we’ve saved 20% in electricity costs. The change, while not visible to the human eye, pulses the energy on and off at fractions of a second without impacting the visual quality of the light.
Savings have been delivered across our estate from the installation of LED lighting which provides the same light level (LUX) as previous fluorescent fittings at a fraction of the energy. Additional savings have been made by removing unnecessary lighting and the increased use of movement sensors and automated switching controls.
We installed a power optimisation system at our Corporate Headquarters in Fareham to optimise the energy supply from the national grid, which reduced like-for-like consumption by more than 5%.
Another simple yet effective change was encasing the rotating radar head at our Perwinnes radar site with a protective ‘radome’ to reduce air resistance as the radar head turns through 360 degrees. This change, combined with other simple improvements, has reduced energy consumption at the site by over 60%. Radomes at other radar sites have also contributed savings.
Upgrades to the air conditioning system at our Swanwick Centre returned some of the biggest savings. These saw the switch to energy efficient variable speed chillers, which use almost half as much energy as before, saving approximately £270,000 per annum in reduced energy costs.
The use of a variable speed motor to drive the air conditioning at our Prestwick Centre led to an annual saving of £110,000. Further improvements to dynamically adjust the heating and cooling system appropriate to local 24 hour needs led to a 25% reduction in consumption.
The bigger picture
Over the next 10 years we will be transforming our operations in support of the Single European Sky, making our airspace and how we work more unified, agile and flexible. This will involve the introduction of new air traffic control technologies and systems and of course their energy requirements will be paramount in our mind, as will airspace noise and efficiency objectives.
We’re excited about the future and challenging ourselves to drive further benefits. If you’d like to know more about our energy savings and other environmental focused activities, you can read our most recent Corporate Responsibility report published on our website.
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