60 kW boiler uses low-cost fuel, heats three cottages and fits in with busy farm schedule

Devon livestock farmer John Roberts and his son Jonathan start their day at 6am – tending to livestock and looking after their working farm – so when John discovered how simple it would be to heat their recently-renovated cottages using only the sustainable supply of wood from their land, he had a burning desire to find out more.

Just two months on and John now has a 60 kW biomass boiler that burns everything from logs and bushes to woodchip and pellets, and provides more than enough heat for all of the cottages. Not only does it provide all of John’s heating requirements, but also it costs nothing for the fuel and they receive an attractive financial return from the government’s commercial Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), generating an exceptional 50 per cent return on investment per year.

“It’s ideal for a farm like ours, where we have our own endless supply of wood,” said John.  “It means we’re fully in control of our own fuel supply, and don’t have to worry about the future costs, which have been continually rising over recent years.  What’s more, the RHI means that we get a healthy reward for ‘going green.’”

The biomass boiler, which was installed by South West Renewable Energy Installer of the Year SunGift Energy, provides both heat and hot water for the cottages and the live/work unit they rent out on their family farm.  Before beginning the work SunGift did a detailed survey of John’s site, designed a bespoke system, and then spent three days installing the 60 kW Eco Angus boiler and 3000 litre heat store.

“The thing that most impresses me is how simple my boiler is to use and how easily it fits in with my farming schedule.  I simply fill it with logs once every two days and that’s it – job done.  It also proves that choosing the sustainable energy option makes both practical and financial sense, particularly for anyone with a working farm that has available woodland and hedges like we have. ”

John began researching the idea of a biomass boiler about nine months ago, and did much of his own research first, so that he had a good understanding of his requirements.  He then got quotes from a number of renewable energy installers, but chose Exeter-based SunGift because ‘they were local and gave a good aftersales support scheme’.  SunGift specified an Eco Angus boiler because it is environmentally friendly, makes financial sense, and is simple to operate.

“There are a lot of companies out there,” added John, “but very few with the technical knowledge that I was looking for.  When you’re making such a big decision, you have to be sure that you’re employing a team of experts, and that’s exactly what SunGift demonstrated to me.  I’d recommend the switch to biomass to all landowners that are in a similar position to me.”

Under the Renewable Heat Incentive, farmers and landowners receive 8.3p for every unit of renewable heat their biomass boiler generates if the boiler is under 200 kW, 5.1p for boilers between 200 kW and 1,000 kW, and 1p for those above 1,000 kW.*

The Roberts’ boiler has a payback period of just two years, generating more than £7,000 per year in fuel cost savings and RHI payments, which are index linked and guaranteed for the next 20 years.

At the end of September the government released the Renewable Heat Incentive consultation for domestic properties which, from summer 2013, will allow householders to get the same financial benefits for installing renewable heat technologies such as biomass, solar thermal panels and heat pumps.