SCC Biomass Programme

“The winners of the Ashden Awards have demonstrated that simple things, with a little ingenuity, can make a big difference. They show that, as human beings, we can live fulfilled and dignified lives, without inflicting damage on our planet.” Sir David Attenborough speaking at the Ashden Awards Ceremony 2010

In 2010, Suffolk County Council (SCC) was presented with an Ashden Award in recognition for its outstanding work in supporting the local wood-fuel supply chain and installing wood-fired boilers in schools.

Background: SCC has a duty to protect the countryside and promote biodiversity through effective land management, and to cut carbon emissions in order to meet national targets.

The rural nature of Suffolk means that many schools were historically heated using oil or coal, resulting in high carbon emissions. From 2006 and with our help, SCC has progressively replaced old boilers in schools with wood-fired boilers burning wood chips or pellets. The wood-fuel is produced within the county, with the council helping to build capacity in the supply chain by providing finance, expert advice and contracts for the supply of fuel to schools.

The Technology: There is strong cross-party support within SCC for environmental work in general, and for the wood-fuel work in particular.

Wood fuel is sourced from local woodland, with different areas harvested each year to allow time for each area to regenerate or be replanted. The logs are stored on a concrete area at a disused airfield for up to a year to allow them to dry out or ‘season’, when they are then fed into a large chipper and the chips stored on site in old aircraft hangars for further drying. The wood must be allowed to dry to a point where the moisture content is below 30%, as this gives better performance when it is burned in a boiler.

The wood chips are then delivered in a tanker to local schools, and blown through a hose into the fuel store. The boiler burns the chips in a controlled supply of air, which is continuously adjusted to respond to variable heating demand and to minimise pollution.

Some of the boilers burn wood pellets rather than chips so that smaller fuel stores can be used. The pellets are now manufactured within Suffolk or in Norfolk (about 60 miles away) and delivered in bulk to a central hub, from where they are distributed.

The Scope: We provided a multi-disciplinary approach, using a wide range of our disciplines from design to project management, to assist SCC with the installation of wood chip boilers at various public sector buildings around Suffolk.

The Results:

  • 25 projects that range from small (70kW) biomass boilers up to large (500kW) boilers have been installed in a variety of new, refurbished and extended public sector buildings around Suffolk.
  • Cost savings have been achieved by the schools switching from heating oil to wood-fuel.
  • Funding and other support has been given to a local wood-fuel producer co-operative, allowing them to purchase and operate a large chipper.
  • Local wood-fuel producers have been given long-term contracts, allowing them to invest confidently in their businesses.
  • In some parts of Suffolk, local woodland has been brought under management and ancient woodland is being restored by replanting native trees.
  • Local employment has been supported in forestry, wood-fuel supply and boiler installation.

“Following the 2010 Ashden Award, SCC, with the help of Concertus, has been continuing to build on its success to further promote and extend the biomass programme in SCC’s property portfolio”
– Andrew Rowe, Managing Director, Concertus