Researchers at the University of the Highlands and Islands have found that the potential for remote and rural communities across Scotland's west coast to tap into community-owned renewable energy schemes may be greater than previously thought.

The findings come from the Bryden Centre run by the university and partners in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Its cross-border PhD programme was launched in 2018 to train the next generation of renewable energy researchers.

Dr Emma Whettall has become the first of the Scottish-based Bryden Centre students to achieve a PhD and in doing so identified 33 sites along Scotland's west coast - including 15 new locations - where small-scale tidal energy devices could be considered.

Dr Whettall, who studied at the Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI and now works in the Highlands and Islands as an environmental modeller, said:

"The west coast of Scotland had a large number of islands and inlets that are - in physical terms - ideal for harnessing tidal energy.

"We looked for sites that were physically suited to supporting a tidal energy device and identified 33 sites, 15 of which had not previously been considered.

"Based on our findings, these sites would definitely warrant further investigation, as other factors such as environmental and social impacts would have to be considered too. There is great potential around community ownership of energy but also issues over scale and cost."

Dr Whettall identified sites using a computer model devised by researchers at the Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI. Flow speed and power potential of these candidate sites were then explored in more detail through a low-cost method developed as part of Emma's PhD work, using an SLR camera at a vantage point to capture images of the tidal flow every two seconds.

The Bryden Centre is named after the late University of the Highlands and Islands Professor Ian Bryden, who was a leading expert in marine renewable energy.

The centre is funded by the European Union's INTERREG VA Programme and is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

Damian Collins, who leads the Bryden Centre at the university, said:

"Emma's work is an indication of the potential for small-scale tidal energy schemes, and whilst her research focused on the west coast of Scotland, there are many other tidal resources across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland that could have the potential to realise small-scale energy schemes.

"The Bryden Centre not only provides research that informs industry, planners and policy makers but also helps to provide the sector with a skilled and knowledgeable workforce. Seeing Emma go from research student to PhD was a proud moment for the Bryden Centre."

Sheena Stewart has been appointed as university secretary at the University of the Highlands and Islands and will provide strategic advice and guidance to the university court the university's governing body.

This key role also organises the work of the court and its associated committees and acts as a trusted advisor to court members around protocols and compliance with legal and statutory obligations.

Sheena, who has close family connections to the Isle of Skye, joins from Abertay University where she is currently university secretary, having held the post for almost ten years.

Alastair MacColl, chair of the university court, welcomed the experience Sheena brings to this appointment: "We are fortunate to be able to attract such an experienced secretary to this important governance advisory role at a critical time in our development as an institution.

"Sheena already knows our partnership well and currently serves as vice-chair of the Highlands and Islands Students' Association, the body which represents students from across our operating area. She joins as we move into a new chapter in our history having celebrated ten years of being a university in 2021. We've achieved a lot in the first ten years, but there is much more to come, and I welcome Sheena's counsel as we pursue our mission to serve our communities and our students."

Sheena has held roles as convenor of Universities Scotland Secretaries' Group; member of the Executive Committee of the UK Association of Heads of University Administration; non-executive director of Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges Ltd; and member of the AdvanceHE Governance Development Forum.

Talking about her appointment, Sheena Stewart added: "I am delighted to be joining the University of the Highlands and Islands and to be part of this phase of the university's development.  Having been part of the Highlands and Islands Students' Association trustee board for almost five years, the mission, diversity and excellence of the whole community is inspiring and I look forward to making a contribution to this."

Sheena will join the university's senior team on 28 March.

If you are still pondering the ‘new you’ for 2022, Lews Castle College may have the answer.

The college has a huge range of evening classes and courses up to post-grad level to help people from all backgrounds to upskill and sharpen their CV.

Part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, the college is kicking off 2022 with a raft of courses and free classes to support local communities.

Head of Curriculum Dr Barbara Keating commented: “The college is dedicated to developing courses to support our local community and economy. Our January offering reflects this with the wide range of courses on offer. 

“These range from evening classes to a series of free courses directly aimed at providing new upskilling opportunities for people. We are all very aware of how difficult the last two years have been. We want to support those affected by the pandemic by offering new and exciting career development for all.”

It all gets underway soon, so if you are looking to develop your skills or make a career change, get in touch with the college to secure your place.

Among the courses is a new professional cookery course commencing in February. This is a seven-week course on putting the wow factor into your desserts, baking, and pastries. Classes are held each Wednesday from 6 pm to 8 pm in the Lews Castle College UHI training kitchen.

Students will receive instruction in many areas of sweet making, from basic pastry work to more elaborate desserts. The course will also look at the use of seasonal ingredients in a wide range of classic and contemporary recipes. And give students some pro presentations tips. The course costs £100.

However, if finances are a bit tight at this time of year, there are free courses to tempt you along your self-development journey.

These are delivered via the wider UHI campus and include a comprehensive range of options to upskill, reskill and retrain to help meet the challenges of today’s economy.

And brand new for 2022 is a ten-week astronomy course supporting the college’s partnership with An Lanntair’s Dark Skies Festival.

This astronomy and space science evening class is pitched to beginners who want to know more about the night sky.

The course at the Stornoway campus will introduce students to the stars and planets and how best to observe them. 

Also covered by the course is space exploration and the large-scale structure of our galaxy and the universe. Weather permitting, it is planned to have a number of outdoor star-gazing sessions.

There’s no need for any prior knowledge about the subject. The cost is £110.

If you are interested in expanding your job competitiveness or horizons, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call 01851 770 000 for more information.