BY LOUISE CONVERY
Mid Ulster property-owners are combating rising fuel prices by pioneering alternatives in biomass heating systems.
Magherafelt council is leading the way with its plans to install a wood or chip burner in its new leisure centre expected to open next spring. This will shrink running costs for the council, especially as they could receive money for using the greener energy source from the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive. The council could save up to £100k a year by using this method.
“Magherafelt District Council has demonstrated that its places sustainability and efficiency at the centre of our operations,” Magherafelt councillor Peter Bateson explained.
Another innovative property owner is Paul Stewart who owns JC Stewart supermarket in Magherafelt. He moved to a wood chip burner and has found the energy source more reliable, cheaper and he knows what the cost will be as opposed to the fluctuating costs of oil and gas.
Mr Stewart also obtained a loan to install the burner from the Carbon Trust, who recommend the greener biofuel burners.
Not only is biomass energy a greener and cheaper alternative, it is also boosting the local economy. Balcas, Enniskillen and Farm Woodlands Ltd, Augher are two of the local suppliers of woodfuels. Balcas produces ‘brites’ wood fuel from wood residue that is a by-product of the sawmilling process.
Farmland Woodlands supply woodchip to a homes and businesses in Mid Ulster, South and West Tyrone and Fermanagh. “We have seen a slow steady increase in the number of properties actually converting to biomass. However, there are a significant number of people very interested at present, but are waiting to see what the outcome of the Renewable Heat Incentive consultation process brings,” a spokesperson said.
They produce a timber chip from logs that are unsuitable for sawmilling. “We are supplying customers with clean, affordable, low carbon fuel in the form of timber woodchip, harvested from sustainably-managed local woodlands. We let our product dry naturally, thereby keeping the carbon footprint of its production low,” they said.
It is claimed that some properties can save up to 50% from their heating bills by using these wood products instead of oil or gas. If you are interested in converting your heating system, you will need to get an accredited installer to check that your central heating system is suitable for the conversion. You should also check what funding is available to make the switch over as there are a number of schemes for homes and businesses.
The main issue for home-owners considering this system is storage, as you will need a large storage space for the fuel. For more information go to www.biomassenergycentre.org,uk.