The Renewable Heat Incentive and Biomass Boilers

August 12, 2013 By Jonathan Hey

Jonathan Hey

Carbon neutrality and being green are words on everyone’s lips at the moment. With continuous pressure to find environmentally friendly methods of working, businesses are taking steps towards reducing carbon footprints in a number of ways. In 2011 the UK government introduced the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the world’s first long-term financial support program for renewable heat.

What is the RHI?

The RHI was born out of a desire to increase the generation of heat from renewable energy sources and subsequently reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, helping to meet targets for reducing climate change. The incentive helps businesses, public sector and non-profit organizations meet the cost of installing renewable heat technologies.

After going live in November 2011, the RHI allows businesses who generate their own renewable heat to be paid up to 9.2p/kWhr for it. This figure can vary depending on the type of renewable system and how much heat is produced, but for many businesses the amount earned can be enough to cover the cost of installation of their renewable energy technology in just a few years. This technology includes such systems as solar thermal collectors, heat pumps and biomass boilers.

Biomass boilers

The biomass boiler system provides a renewable energy source using biological material such as wood waste to provide heat and hot water. The boiler connects to the central heating and hot water system and provides a cost-effective alternative to natural gas and oil-fired systems.

Businesses, particularly those in which there is a lot of organic waste involved, are able to use biomass boilers to become self-sustainable. By using biomass such as wood chips to fuel facilities, an organization can cut down on the extra costs caused by landfill and transport fuel. This negates the need for the business to use gas on site.

There are several types of biomass boilers that burn any kind of biomass (living or recently living organic material) from wood chips to pellets and grain. Biomass boilers are not suited to be turned on and off like gas boilers and as such work at their highest efficiency when operating continuously. They can be used to meet the extensive and continuous heat loads of buildings that require constant industrial processes and heat demand. Temperature sensitive organizations such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes would benefit from the use of a reliable biomass system

How does it work?

A biomass boiler system consists of the boiler, a fuel store or silo, and a mechanism such as a conveyor belt which extracts fuel from the silo and drives it into the boiler. A buffer vessel, or thermal store, is also sometimes necessary to prevent rapid cycling of the boiler.

With a fully automated biomass boiler system, a series of conveyors and augers transfers the wood fuel to the boiler. The amount of fuel is measured by computers which automatically control the conveyor belts in order to sustain the boiler’s pressure. This is in comparison with semi-automatic, pellet-fired and combined heat and power systems which require varying amounts of manpower and the way in which they are run.

The savings a business can make from using a biomass boiler system can be dramatic, as it cuts down on fuel and waste costs as well as gas. The biomass boiler also demonstrates a green message and allows businesses to play a larger role in reducing the UK’s carbon emissions.

The future of green business

While the RHI is due to be extended to domestic buildings in 2014, businesses are becoming increasingly in tune with other incentives and opportunities to become carbon neutral and spread a green message in the UK.

Incentives such as the Green Bridge Supply Chain Programme for SMEs in the West Midlands and the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Energy Entrepreneurs Fund are geared towards inspiring businesses to think about carbon neutrality and energy efficiency. Renewably sourced timber and the use of the non-toxic, recyclable new wood Accoya suggest more possible action to be taken and a brighter future for green business.

Jonathan Hey is managing director at Westbury Garden Rooms, manufacturers of bespoke timber garden rooms, windows and doors. Westbury became the second business in the UK to be registered with the RHI and replaced their four gas boilers with a biomass boiler system.

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