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At a Glance: Biomass

The ‘old style’ biomass boilers – with their clunky manual loading systems, frequent cleaning, maintenance requirements, poor efficiencies and limited product range – are now thankfully a thing of the past.

The new ranges of modern systems (predominantly from Austria) boast fully automatic self-cleaning facilities, an array of intuitive loading systems and efficiencies which are in some cases better than their traditional fossil fuel counterparts.

With the government’s commitment to major cuts in carbon emissions from fossil based fuels and the introduction of the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive), biomass boilers have become a very popular alternative to traditional fossil fuelled systems.

‘Biomass’ is defined as biological materials derived from living organisms. In the context of biomass for energy, this is often used to mean plant based materials or wood products, but can in fact be any organic material which can be burned and used as a fuel source.

Over the past 12 months we have seen a high number of enquiries from high heat users such as hotels, nursing homes, chicken farms and leisure facilities amongst others – predominantly as a result of the potential returns to be made via the RHI. Other reasons for increased interest include fuel cost savings (particularly against oil or propane), the desire to attain ‘Green’ credentials, planning requirements and general curiosity!

It must be said that biomass boilers, both domestic and commercial, tend to be much larger than fossil fuel equivalents, and this issue is further amplified by the requirement for a fuel storage area (or in the case of commercial applications, a feed system). To overcome this issue there are various ‘containerised’ solutions for biomass systems, which allow the system to be sited outside properties, meaning no or little boiler plant is required inside a property.

Besides the physical size another consideration is the cost, as biomass boilers are generally substantially more expensive than equivalent fossil fuelled equivalents. However, due to the potential returns as a result of the RHI, there are various companies willing to issue funding for such schemes, either via traditional finance or via private investment in exchange for the RHI payments.

For most systems, the choice of fuel is usually chipped or pelleted wood, although grain and various crops can be burnt. Wood chips are the cheaper alternative but require a much larger storage area than pellets. Assessment of the most appropriate fuel is based on a number of factors such as site allowances, fuel availability, storage/delivery space, lifestyle of the end user, and potential usage.

You can browse through our full range of renewable technologies on our Renewable Technologies section. More information on increasing the use of Low Carbon Technologies and the RHI can be found via the following links:

Renewable Heat Incentive
Energy Saving Trust
Ofgem

Please feel free to contact us to discuss any queries you may have regarding biomass or the RHI.

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