Bio energy is the conversion of biomass resources such as agricultural and forest residues, organic municipal waste and energy crops, into useful energy carriers including heat, electricity and transport fuels.
Long term aspirations of the UK government are for a 60% CO2 reduction by 2050 with 40% of our energy coming from renewable sources. Biomass energy is expected to provide a significant proportion of this, not only in contributing to power generation but also to the generation of heat.
Definition of Biomass
Renewable organic materials such as wood, agricultural crops or wastes used as a fuel or energy source.
Biomass boilers are eligible for tax free payments for generating heat under the RHI!
What is Biomass?
Biomass fuelled heating systems burn wood pellets, wood chips or logs to power central heating and hot water boilers. The use of biomass in heating systems is beneficial because it uses agricultural, forest, urban and industrial residues and waste, to produce heat and electricity with less effect on the environment than those of fossil fuels.
A stove burns logs or pellets to heat a single room - may be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating as well. A pellet stove uses small biological fuel pellets which are renewable and very clean. Home heating systems that use a pellet stove is an alternative to fossil fuels currently used throughout the world with rapid growth in Europe as energy prices increase. Some pellet stoves use a feed screw to transfer pellets from a storage hopper to a combustion chamber, others are fed manually.
A biomass boiler burns logs, pellets, or chips and is connected up to a central heating and hot water system, which allows the biomass to heat radiators throughout the whole house.
Most biomass boilers are electrically controlled. Wood pellets, wood chips and other biomass fuels are automatically fed into the fire box by an auger (giant corkscrew) which is ignited by an electronic probe. The temperature of the combustion is monitored by thermostats that automatically adjust the speed at which the fuel is fed into the fire box depending on the purpose of the heating. The heat from the fuel burning heats up the water situated in the boiler, which is then circulated around the central heating system maintaining the desired temperature.
Why is Biomass a Renewable Energy?
Capturing solar energy as fixed carbon via photosynthesis = CO2 + H2O + Light + Chlorophyll =>CH2O +O2.
This process is where the plants actually capture and store solar energy from the sun. The stored energy can be then used as a fuel source. Although we then burn the fuel which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it is offset by the CO² that the plant/tree would have absorbed in its lifetime.
The reason wood is used as a prime source for biomass boilers and stoves is not only is it the first fuel mankind learned to use, it is also a resource which can be regenerated unlike the fossil fuels which will in time, eventually run out.
What is 'Carbon Neutral'?
Carbon dioxide (CO²) is taken from the atmosphere and used to grow by trees. When they die and decay or are buried, this CO² is released back into the atmosphere. In a mature, unmanaged forest the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed by growing trees is the same amount as what is being given off by decaying dead trees, animals, microbes etc, that live off the trees as they live and die.
Wood is never removed faster than it is added by new growth. Therefore the CO² released when the wood fuel is burned, is never anymore than the CO² being taken up by new growth.
Advantages of Biomass
- Low carbon footprint
- Increased energy efficiency
- Use of renewable energy
- Local fuel supply
- Low maintenance
- Stable fuel price
Advantages to the environment as a whole, refers back to 'Carbon Neutral', because the plants/trees are never removed quicker than it is added by new growth. Economically, the current prices of bio fuels such as wood pellets is much cheaper in comparison to fossil fuels, especially oil and LPG, and are far less sensitive to the price volatility that we are seeing with traditional fuel sources.
Savings within Biomass
Savings in Carbon Dioxide are very significant - around 7.5 tonnes a year when a wood fuelled boiler replaces a solid coal fired system or electric storage heating. Financial savings are more variable - if you replace a gas heating system with a wood burning system you may save £100 a year but if you replace an electric heating system you could save as much as £580 per year!
|Fuel Replaced||Expected Saving||Expected CO² Saving|
|Electricity||£580 per year||7.5 tonnes|
|Oil||£280 per year||4.0 tonnes|
|LPG||£720 per year||3.5 tonnes|
|Coal||£300 per year||7.5 tonnes|
|Gas||£100 per year||3.0 tonnes|
This table does not include any payments received by the RHI which on an average domestic boiler could be up to £1300 per year!
What does the installation involve?
A stove or biomass unit has to be installed in the home and fed into the heating system. As with many renewable installation the location and suitability is key, which would make biomass boilers more suited to an outhouse or larger utility areas where by the loading of the biomass fuel can be safely carried out.
The installation of a new flue is normally required. There are restricted installations allowed within permitted development rights, full planning maybe required depending on the size of the flue, but it would be best to check with local planning for full detail.
If you would like to enquire about Biomass installation, please call us on 01670 828695 (Northumberland), or 01751 432096 (North Yorkshire).