Biomass boiler reduces The Park’s energy consumption

The ecological footprint of the Findhorn Foundation has been significantly reduced with the installation and commissioning of an efficient new biomass boiler at The Park towards the end of 2010.

In its first year of operation the 250 kW boiler, which is fuelled by woodchips made from waste wood from a local sawmill, saved the equivalent of £15,000 in fuel costs while reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 80 tons.

Project Manager Graham Meltzer

The saving in emissions equates to taking 50 average-sized vehicles off the road and is seen as a worthy contribution towards the UK government’s ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions.

The biomass boiler replaced gas and oil-burning units in the Universal Hall, Community Centre, Park Building, Laundry and eight of the residential bungalows that were built during the early days of the community’s expansion and long before it became an internationally celebrated ecovillage with one of the lowest recorded ecological footprints in the developed world.

An added bonus is that hot water is also supplied to the popular outdoor Hot Tub that is made from recycled whisky barrels and previously depended on electricity for heating.

Project manager Graham Meltzer of the Foundation’s Asset Development Group says: “It’s been running a year with great success. It’s working well and requires little looking after.

Biomass Boiler Delivery

A woodchip delivery

“We also could not be happier with our choice of biomass fuel supplier and were very fortunate, following a wide geographic search and protracted tender process, to secure a nearby source with the woodchips coming by tractor and trailer from a sawmill just 10 miles away.”

It is anticipated that the biomass boiler will have a useful working life of around 20 years and as fossil fuel prices continue to soar the savings in coming years will more than justify an investment of around £350,000.

Additional long-term benefits are also likely from the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive that replaces grant funding and promotes the use of renewable energy sources in place of fossil fuels. Over 20 years the rebates could equal the total initial investment!

With the success of the The Park’s biomass boiler, the Foundation is now investigating a similar installation at our Cluny Hill site in Forres to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions in the Victorian residential complex that was once a popular hotel.

Graham Meltzer & Jim Brown

Graham Meltzer with Park Maintenance focaliser Jim Brown

Graham Meltzer has echoed the gratitude of the community to the Scottish Government which made the investment possible through a £150,000 grant from its funding instrument, Community Energy Scotland (CES) along with an interest-free loan of £100,000 from the Energy Saving Trust, which will be repaid over eight years.

“The Foundation is very keen to share its experience with other community groups who are considering biomass heating. We see it as one way we can show gratitude for the support we have received along the way and make an ongoing contribution to fighting climate change and environmental degradation,” he said.

“Every year our ecovillage hosts thousands of guests from around the world, many of whom come specifically to learn about sustainability. In summer thousands more day visitors take tours of The Park where they can view, not only the biomass boiler, but our electricity-generating wind park, ecological architecture, food production, sustainable forestry and our biological sewage treatment system called The Living Machine.”

Please contact our Visitor Centre for further information.

A full report on the performance of the biomass boiler is available here.

Story and photos: Geoff Dalglish

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