Biomass energy schemes currently occupy a compelling space in the UK’s energy landscape. As the grid decarbonises, CHP still provides a strong business case, but doesn’t bring the CO2 savings it once did and whilst heat pumps and geothermal promise much for the future, they have yet to make the industry-wide jump from the drawing board to the market, which shows they have yet to fully provide a long-term, robust, reliable and viable system.
In contrast, biomass could be described as the technology of the moment, delivering large carbon savings whilst making financial sense and providing a strong, lengthy track record of successful projects in all sectors ranging from higher education and healthcare to residential and mixed use.
When done correctly, biomass can be commercially comparable to other technologies, whilst delivering much higher CO2 reductions. This is great news for both the public and private sector who strive to deliver value for money, low-carbon solutions.
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The premise behind biomass is simple…You take organic material, such as wood chip, wood pellet or organic waste and then burn it in a biomass boiler or furnace to produce heat. This can be used to provide heat and hot water and is regarded as renewable energy.
Systems can range in size from small, domestic systems which are typically 10-15kw to significant power stations such as the Drax facility and our offering spans the medium to large categories. Typical biomass boiler systems can power single buildings or be connected to multiple buildings via a district heating network. An example of the multiple building approach is the University of St Andrews biomass energy project where a biomass furnace heats water at a remote site and pumps this through an underground district heating network to the main University campus, 4 miles away, where it heats 42 buildings and 2,600 student homes.
There are a number of factors which need to be considered when establishing whether a biomass scheme will be economically viable. In many instances, the business case can be compelling with projects achieving payback at the investment term and then generating a profit for the duration of the scheme’s design life.
It is essential that when bringing a biomass project to market that there is a robust, detailed business case which accurately takes into account the whole-life costs associated with the project.
Financial considerations fall into 3 main categories: