Biomass Advantages and Disadvantages

FAQ'S | Biomass Boilers

The choice of fuel depends on the size and type of boiler. Logs, pellets or chips can be used along with straw, miscanthus and agricultural waste. We can advise on local suppliers of fuel before installation.
  • Wood Pellets – More expensive but now easily sourced, popular for domestic systems as they require less storage space than logs or chips. Usually delivered in sacks or blown into storage area. Derived from wood by-products from saw mills and wood manufacturing, wood pellet boilers are the most efficient and versatile. Most wood pellet boilers run automatically in much the same way as an oil or gas boiler.
  • Wood Chip – Ideal for commercial scale applications due to storage requirement (community heating systems, public buildings) generally for automatically fed larger systems of over 30kW. Derived from forest or saw mill residues or from clean, untreated waste timber.
  • Logs – Least off-site processing but more work for the customer and on-site storage, it is ideal where a timber source is readily available. The drier the logs, the more heat they produce, producing less smoke and tar (min 1-2 years natural air-drying). Used for small scale, domestic systems.
A separate store area will be required for storing fuel. This must be a dry area with good delivery access. More wood fuel is required for the equivalent heat output from coal or oil. The amount of space needed is based on usage during winter months and frequency of new deliveries. For large scale installations easy access for large trucks is essential. Storage can be in underground bunkers, hoppers, hook lift bins or open stores in covered sheds.
This depends on the heat loss requirements of the building. We install a range of systems from a 10kW pellet heating stove through to 500kW commercial wood chip biomass boiler systems.
It can normally be easily integrated with existing central heating and hot water systems. Biomass systems generally need new flues (for emitting combustion gases) and vents (for air intake).
The system is most efficient if the building is properly insulated and the system is correctly installed and fuelled with good quality biomass. We ensure all our installations are of the highest quality using only MCS high efficiency biomass boilers.
We can install in a new build or retrofit to most properties. If the building is in a Smoke Control Area, the choice of boilers will be restricted or planning may be required for an extended flue, or technology will be required to reduce gaseous emissions and eliminate the requirement for dispersion. Adequate space will be required for fuel storage.
The savings for commercial systems depends on the plant size. A domestic system in a year will save around £580 over electricity and £300 over solid fuel. Both will show a saving of 7.5 tonnes of carbon each year.
District heating is the use of a centralized boiler installation to provide heat for a number of buildings. This can use a heat only boiler, or the heat from a (CHP) plant.
Boilers burn biomass such as wood, straw,miscanthus, agricultural waste etc. Burning plant biomass does release carbon, but only the amount that the plant consumed. Emissions are significantly lower than burning fossil fuels. Crops can be grown to make wood pellets making it a sustainable form of energy generation.
The capital outlay is higher than for oil and gas. However, the outlay is rapidly recovered through lower fuel costs. Payback can be as rapid as 3-5 years.
All biomass boilers require a flue. Normally we use existing chimney or flue outlets, otherwise a suitable flue will need to be installed. Within a smokeless zone a tall chimney policy will be in place to encourage dispersion of emissions into the atmosphere.
Commercial and domestic biomass installations fall under permitted development rights. Biomass boilers do not require planning unless the flue extends more than one metre from the roof, is installed on the principle elevation and can be seen from the road or is in a conservation area.
We recommend an annual service for a small modern, fully automated boiler system. Larger boiler installations (over 500kW) require daily check, regular maintenance and an annual service.
Wood burning produces typically less than 1% ash, it is not classed as hazardous waste and can be used as a fertiliser (apply to the compost heap), in the production of brick and cement or can be disposed of to the Local Authority.
Wood-chip costs 3p-4p/kWh, or £100–£150 a tonne depending on source and distance travelled.
Wood pellets cost 5p-6p/kWh, or £180–£250 a tonne depending on bulk quantity or if bagged.
The cheapest logs depends entirely on local pricing and amount of work undertaken by customer.
The cost per kWh of delivered heat from a biomass boiler varies with fuel type: 3p-4p/kWh for wood-chip and 5p-6p/kWh for pellets and benefits from bulk buying. This compares to 5p-6p/kWh for natural gas, 6p-7p/kWh for oil and more than 11p/kWh for LPG and electricity, subject to boiler efficiency (old boilers cost even more to run). Biomass heating devices are very efficient in the way that they use the heat generated and are designed to run modern central heating systems.

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