It is just over two years since the Government launched its flagship support scheme for green energy sources with its Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
Since then nearly 3,150 new commercial biomass boilers have been installed and registered under the scheme and wood and other forms of solid biomass now outstrip the other eligible technologies by a margin of around 13 to one
Rural areas have done very well out of this RHI, says Neil Harrison, of Alnwick-based re:heat.
“This is thanks to high fossil fuel costs, an abundance of trees and space for fuel storage, and a general rural savvy about subsidy payments,” he said.
“A significant proportion of installations are in rural areas, with larger systems being installed in chicken farms, glasshouses and estate district heating schemes.
“Here, existing high heating costs make the economics of switching to wood very attractive. Paybacks of between four and seven years are possible.”
Smaller schemes on farms and small estates have also seen good uptake, Mr Harrison claimed.
He added: “What do you need to look out for when considering a biomass heating system? First of all, you need to consider which fuel types are going to best suit your existing operations.
“Secondly, if your project involves long runs of underground heat main, the inevitable heat losses from buried pipework could mean you end up paying more for your useful heat than if you were on oil or LPG.
“What frustrates us the most often is completely unsuitable boilers specified for high-duty applications. You wouldn’t use a Ford Fiesta to plough a field, yet we regularly see domestic and light commercial wood-fired boilers struggling to heat buildings and processes to which they’re wholly unsuited.
He advises people thinking of investing in a biomass system to consider the following points.
Protect yourself by asking installers what the warranty on the boiler is, and the availability of spare parts in the UK. Pay particular attention to the number of run hours that the warranty covers.
Watch out for companies offering several boilers where one would be more appropriate.
Mr Harrison concluded: “We believe the rate of installations of wood and biomass heating systems will continue in 2014 at the rate observed to date. And as wood-fired heating is the ‘best fit’ technology for the majority of rural properties in the UK, it will continue to lead the way.