North Banchory Company North Banchory Company Hill of Banchory Complete

Creating a truly sustainable community is a laudable ambition and by working with Vital Energi, North Banchory Company have delivered a Biomass District Heating Network, which will ensure sustainable energy for the development.

“This was a development which had sustainability at its heart with the aim of utilising the wood resource around the development to fuel the energy centre. Through the use of cutting edge technology, careful planning and expertise the developers have delivered a truly sustainable community, which is something they can be very proud of.”

Ian Whitelock Joint Managing Director of Vital Energi

Project Overview

Vital Energi has been helping a development company, owned by one of the most illustrious families in Scotland, to realise its ambition of creating a pioneering new sustainable community in the Scottish Highlands. The Hill of Banchory is an on-going and expanding development on the eastern side of Banchory, a town situated on the River Dee, twenty-miles from Aberdeen. The mixed use scheme is being constructed by the Bancon Group of companies over six phases and will consist of 206 two, three and four bedroom homes, commercial office space, a leisure centre, nursing home and hotel set in the idyllic countryside of the forested Hill of Banchory area.

The Bancon Group of companies is owned by the Burnett family. The family, whose history goes back to before the Norman Conquest, gifted Crathes Castle to the National Trust but still own the Hill of Banchory estate. They continue to invest in residential, leisure and commercial developments throughout the area. As part of their vision for the Hill of Banchory development, the Burnett family want to use wood, sourced from their own forest, to provide an environmentally-friendly and sustainable heat supply.

To achieve this, Vital Energi, working with the Hill of Banchory Energy Services Company (HOBESCo), is designing, installing and commissioning a Biomass Energy Centre which is one of the largest in Scotland. Bancon Homes, part of the Bancon Group, has received a commendation award for Best Low Carbon Initiative for the Hill of Banchory development and was the only biomass district heating system among the submissions.

The Challenge

Sustainability has been put at the heart of the planning of this development. The mixture of Business Park, residential properties and community facilities is aimed at making Banchory more of a destination and less of a dormitory town for Aberdeen.

Vital Energi's Solution

Vital Energi was appointed by HOBESCo to design, supply, install and commission a sustainable energy supply for the Hill of Banchory development. The Blackburn-based sustainable energy specialist was asked to provide operations appraisal and business case advice on the comparative risks and benefits of a variety of technologies including biomass CHP technologies, gasification and Organic Rankin Cycle. Following its in-depth evaluation, Vital Energi recommended a solution based on wood-fuelled biomass boilers.

Vital Energi is now in the process of designing, supplying, installing and commissioning a biomass energy centre and district heating network of specialist underground pre-insulated pipes distributing heat and hot water to the estate. The work is due for completion by the end of 2012. The biomass energy centre generates heat from wood fuel and comprises an energy plant-room and wood fuel store. The plant room consists of two biomass boilers, 700kW and 900kW, and two thermal stores each with a capacity of 50,000 litres. Two gas boilers provide back-up and peak load heat requirements. It is highly efficient, low-cost and low-carbon. Woodchips are sourced locally from the Burnett family-owned Hill of Banchory forest. On completion, around 6km of underground pipes will distribute hot water from the Energy Centre to the individual buildings connected to the district heating scheme.

The main district heating pipes are constructed from steel and include an alarm leak-detection system. They are highly insulated with a very low thermal loss over long distances ensuring minimal heat is wasted. Service pipes connect from the mains to individual buildings and are constructed from Aluflex. Heat is transferred from the incoming district heating pipework to the internal heating system of the building via a heat exchanger contained in a Vital Energi Hydraulic Interface Unit (HIU).

A future goal for the Burnett family is to farm fuel from their forest for supply to other similar operations. During the detailed design phase, Vital Energi was asked to explore the potential for making the energy centre a fuel drying facility and energy hub for other developments. As the development is being constructed in phases, Vital Energi also recommended, designed, supplied and commissioned a 550kW gas fired temporary boiler facility to service the first phase of the development until the main energy centre was fully operational. This enabled HOBESCo to phase its capital investment in energy provision. 


From the start of the project, Vital Energi assisted HOBESCo by providing operations appraisal and business case advice on the comparative risks and benefits of a variety of technologies, and associated life cycle costs, and revenues available from sales and funding or incentive initiatives. The Hill of Banchory scheme demonstrates how Vital Energi’s expertise in delivering projects that work together with cutting edge design, combined with the support of a forward-thinking organisation like HOBESCo, can result in the successful delivery of a sustainable energy solution for the community it serves.


  • The Biomass Energy Centre is highly-efficient, low-cost and low-carbon
  • Energy security is provided for the long-term
  • Less maintenance cost compared with a system using individual boilers
  • All the advantages of gas systems without the need for a boiler or flue
  • Competitive and sustainable energy costs, not affected by fluctuating gas and oil prices
  • Reliable and safe form of heating – no flues or flames