The South West forestry industry is set to benefit from rapidly increasing interest in a renewable energy technology which uses wood waste as its power source.
The prospect of higher heating bills this winter is encouraging more homeowners than ever to save money by installing so-called pellet boilers, which burn waste sawdust and wood chips produced by sawmills and joiners.
The move to fit pellet boilers for central heating and hot water has been particularly pronounced among rural homeowners in the South West who depend on heating oil and have seen oil prices double in a year.
One of the region’s leading suppliers of pellet boilers, Capture Energy, has installed more boilers in the last two months than throughout all of 2007.
Nathan Billings, the company’s Technical Director said: “2008 is the year that wood will again start being taken seriously as a fuel and that’s good news for the South West’s forestry industry. Pellet boilers combine the latest technologies such as automatic operation and remote control with one of world’s oldest heat sources. And despite recent falls in fossil fuel prices, wood is likely to remain cheaper than oil.”
A year ago, heating oil cost just over 30p per litre, and after peaking at almost 65p, now stands at around 55p per litre. The quantity of wood pellets which provide as much energy as a litre of oil currently cost around 42p, or around £210 per tonne, with the price set to fall further as production increases.
Alistair Wright, the Managing Director of one of the South West’s biggest sawmills, Truro Sawmills said: “There is no doubt that the move to pellet boilers will be massively important for us. Until recently we simply stored our waste boards, but these are now being used in commercial wood-fired boilers. In the next few months, we plan to start sending our sawdust to be made into pellets.”
In most sawmills, between 40 and 50 per cent of the wood processed ends up as either sawdust or woodchips, meaning hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste material is available as fuel.
The installation of the boilers to replace LPG or oil central heating has been given a further boost from the Government’s Low Carbon Buildings programme. The environmental benefits of using wood, rather than a fossil fuel, means homeowners who install the boilers using an accredited installer can get grants of up to £1500.
Nathan continued: “Although the popularity of these boilers is good news for the forestry industry and the environment, I suspect people are actually choosing to install them because they’re concerned about this winter’s bills, and want to protect themselves against rising costs.”
For more information on Capture Energy’s range of pellet boilers, visit www.captureenergy.co.uk or call 01209 716861.
Truro Sawmills can be contacted on 01872 561070 or via www.trurosawmills.com.