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Case Studies > Fuelling the debate

Douglas & Angus Estates

Case Study Fuelling the debate Douglas & Angus Estates
Case Study Fuelling the debate For estates looking to convert their heating systems from fossil fuel to a biomass boiler, the options are attractive, especially when it comes to district heating. Using their own wood sources for fuel, estates can provide sustainable, low-carbon biomass heat and power systems that both reduce bills and are better for the environment.

But they are not without their challenges. In 2009/10, the Douglas and Angus Estates decided to invest in a biomass district heating plant at its Newmains Farm in Douglas to heat 11 cottages, as well as the estate office and yard.

“One of the attractions to us of doing it was that it enabled us to do away with 13 individual heating systems and put in a single system,” said Henry Birch, Factor at Douglas and Angus Estates. “All of the properties are within 100 yards of where the boiler is, so it all works from a geographical and a practical point of view.

“We also have 2,000 acres of commercial woodland in the valley, so we have a source of regular thinnings that we can use, and by being able to procure our own wood, we felt it was giving us a degree of fuel security.”

The expense of installation was partly offset by a grant from the Forestry Commission and is now operating under the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which provides a fixed income for every kilowatt-hour of heat produced. Tenants are charged for their heat consumption at a lower rate than they would have paid for oil, so – as Henry said – everybody benefits.

However, he points out pitfalls that can affect the practicality of running a biomass system, with advice gained through the estate’s own experience so far.

“Like everything else in life, there’s always the potential for problems,” he said. “It’s a great idea to have someone on hand who is capable and responsible for looking after the system. It’s not particularly complicated, but you really need a person who understands the machine and can coax it along when necessary, because it’s not as straightforward as putting fuel into an oil-fired boiler.

Henry said that fellow estate owners should not be deterred, but can benefit from his experience.

“The principles of the system are absolutely brilliant, but it’s a good idea to invest a few extra pounds from the outset to work with a reputable, decent consultant, rather than jumping in as we did and just doing it. Also, make sure that your contract guarantees you a decent level of service.”
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