Matthew Orme from our water supplier Wenlock Spring talks to Cooler Plus about biomass boilers.
Wenlock Spring is a family-run spring water bottling company located in rural Shropshire. As a result we have limited mains electricity and as the company has grown so has our requirement for power – which has resulted in the installation of generators to support the peak loads. One of the areas of large electricity load is the heating of water for the 19 litre filling line – which uses hot water at 65C.
We wanted to find a environmental solution that would enhance other resources we might have available on the farm. We have looked at many new initiatives and systems over the years but most never really stacked up environmentally, ethically or financially.
One of the ultimate key drives was a trip to Canada a few years ago and the realisation of the destruction that is being caused in North Alberta in the excavation of oil in the tar sands. I felt that there must be something we could do as business and for the future generations. Biomass boilers were the solution that fitted our situation. In order to lower our carbon footprint, reduce our electrical requirements and become more sustainable.
We designed and installed a bespoke heating system to pick up the filler, offices, domestic hot water, factory and CIP system that required a heat source – and that were using a combination of fossil fuels including kerosene, diesel, gas or electricity to generate heat.
The installation of biomass boilers at Wenlock Spring involved installing pipework above and underground to each location, with the installation of heat exchangers and secondary pumps. These biomass boilers boilers are solid fuel heating systems which burn wood pellets, chips, Miscanthus (elephant grass), tritium and grain to provide warmth in either a single room or to power central heating and hot water boilers. They are a low carbon alternative to fossil fuels due to reduced emissions.
Currently these boilers are being fuelled by timber from our own farm. This means that we have now started to manage all the woodland, boundaries and water courses with the planting of new hedges and trees, which will create more natural cover and corridors for wildlife.
In addition, we are looking at planting Miscanthus, which is plant that grows from rhizome. Once established it needs no fertiliser chemical to grow. It will be harvested each spring and will grow for well over 20 years. This is perhaps one of the few plants that is carbon negative due to the rhizome growing and locking carbon into the ground. Also our fuel will only travel a few hundred metres from its source.
Wenlock Spring has managed to significantly reduce its carbon footprint and generate over 24,000kw last year from the boilers. Further to this initiative, we are now looking to expand the scheme further, to pick up other areas around the site. In addition we have started a programme of fitting PV panels to the roofs of the warehouses.