Scotland’S CIH And BRE Team Up On EPCs And Learning

Tim Rook, Chairman of Woodpecker Energy UK, explains why biomass could be the answer to carbon-neutral heating and low-carbon living.

Biomass heating is a no-nonsense solution to carbon neutral heating, as well as an effective way to provide low-carbon, affordable warmth while adhering to building and environmental regulations, so it is encouraging that the coalition government intends to increase renewable energy and low-carbon technologies.

The Government also seems to be serious in its commitment to zero carbon building, i.e. highly energy efficient buildings that use on-site low and zero carbon technologies to meet an overall carbon compliance standard. it wants all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016, all new public sector buildings from 2018 and all new nondomestic buildings from 2019. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) continues to have support from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is expected to come into force in June 2011.

In addition, other regulations will be altered for the better. Current regulations, for example, require flue sizes of 6″ or 7″ for our boilers, whereas a 5″ flue outlet is more than adequate. This anomaly will now be addressed.

The Government’s Biomass Taskforce concluded that existing regulations did not take into account the specific requirements of biomass (for example, flue size and location), creating a barrier to using biomass and increasing costs unnecessarily.

A more adaptable approach will recognise that some safeguards are not required for certain appliances. This is undoubtedly good news for biomass boiler manufacturers. The continued use of MCS certification for biomass boilers and installers is also very encouraging.

Unfortunately, some installers are hesitant to invest in biomass training and instead continue to focus on oil or gas heating. It doesn’t help that some installers have failed to correctly install biomass boilers due to a lack of training. It’s important to remember that a dissatisfied end user is likely to discourage others from considering a biomass heating system. This jeopardises biomass heating’s reputation.

If the installation is done correctly, a satisfied customer is more likely to recommend biomass heating to others, whether they are homeowners or developers. The future of biomass is not only dependent on regulation, but also on customer satisfaction. It is critical for us to foster closer collaboration between MCS biomass installers and M&E generalists if we are to avoid the heartbreak of a poorly designed and installed system affecting the end user.

The biomass industry has also suffered from incorrect product or system specification by specifiers who are accustomed to over-specifying gas or oil boiler outputs.

To be sure, the thought process is different to obtain biomass boilers with slightly less than the specified heat load by utilising a buffer tank (heat store), space requirements, and taking into account how the combustion occurs with a solid fuel.

However, it is not only specifiers and installers who must be educated on biomass heating systems. There is still a general lack of understanding in the market about the various types and requirements of biomass fuels available, as well as how they must be considered. For example, when using locally grown logs or wood chip, it is necessary to season the timber, so adequate space is required (eg. a barn). Wood pellets, on the other hand, are more expensive, but require far less manual handling than wood chip.

They also take up less space – typically about a quarter of the space required for similar log or chip installations, when the fuel and boiler are combined. An air pump from a bulk tanker can ‘blow’ wood pellets into a pellet silo. They can then be automatically ‘fed’ into the boiler, so there is little difference between using a wood pellet boiler and a traditional gas or oil boiler.

We are confident that as more incentives and regulations become available, biomass heating systems will become a more common feature of residential and commercial buildings. Prestigious projects such as the Olympic sailing Village accommodation block at Osprey Quay in Dorset, which will include three large-scale Woodpecker Thermon boilers as part of a district heating system, add to the mainstream appeal.

Biomass heating systems do require an initial investment, but they are the most efficient way to provide the quality and quantity of heating that we are accustomed to without using fossil fuels. With the very real threat of rising gas and oil prices as these resources become scarcer and more expensive to extract, any building with a biomass heating system will be an appealing object for both buyers and tenants. When you consider the potential earnings from future government incentives, biomass is a very good investment. Heating systems that reduce carbon emissions may no longer be considered a new technology in the future, but rather a necessity. Biomass heating systems are truly carbon neutral and sustainable when properly specified and installed, and use locally produced fuel sources, and will be a viable solution to zero carbon building.

Last Updated on December 30, 2021


Author: Indra Gupta

Indra is an in-house writer with a love of Newcastle United and all things sustainable.

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