Our project manager Joe Eriksson and his team are working fast this week to complete the construction of our new garage which includes a storage area for our new biomass boiler, arriving on Monday. Joe’s Scandinavian house-building expertise means Bertha (the biomass boiler) will be housed in a fine timber frame building to the left of the main house. Despite our project’s huge emphasis on sustainability, it’s not possible to build the garage in a totally ‘green’ way: the structure obviously needs steel beams to maintain rigidity. The dimensions of the garage have been calculated to provide enough space for the biomass boiler, wood pellet storage plus two cars.

Yesterday we took a sneak peek at our new boiler when we visited A Greener Alternative, our local ecological heating supplier in Sheffield Park. We decided on an Austrian designed BioWIN2 Windhager, chosen for its proven reliability, ease of cleaning and minimal space requirements compared to other makes on the market such as Froling and KWB. Windhager also have an office in the UK so at least we won’t have to polish off our German to request any spare parts. This company has been designing heat equipment for nearly 90 years so we trust they know a thing or two about low carbon heating solutions. If Windhager biomass is good enough for The National Trust, we feel confident we’ve made a sound choice for carbon neutrality by installing one at Sky House Sussex.

Bertha’s vital statistics are:

  • requires less than 1.5 square metres space
  • 15kW max. output
  • 94% efficiency at nominal load
  • 280kg total weight including integral hopper (feeding mechanism)
  • Low maintenance: low pellet consumption, self-cleaning, large ash box needing infrequent emptying,  servicing every 2 years.
  • offers 80-90% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to oil heating

Nicki Myers at A Greener Alternative told us that their biomass clients range from individuals wanting to replace an old woodburner in their living room, to larger commercial installations such as the 400kW wood pellet boiler they supplied to Colchester Zoo. A Greener Alternative have also recently installed a 60kW Windhager at Crawley Down Monastery. Perhaps getting up at 4.30am won’t seem such a hardship for the monks if there is plenty of hot water for showers…

Our choice of biomass boiler as a sustainable, renewable and efficient way to produce hot water and space heating is a key part of our strategy for reaching lifetime zero carbon at Sky House Sussex. It feels great to be preparing for its arrival next week and commissioning on Friday 13th (good luck for some, we hope). Our next challenges are, firstly, to find a supplier of sustainable wood pellets who can provide us, on a practicable basis, with the 3+ tonnes per year we anticipate using, and secondly, to find out how to take advantage of the recently launched domestic RHI payback scheme. We’ll keep you posted on our findings. If you are a biomass user, we’d love to hear your experiences.