Biomass fuel can cost significantly less than fossil fuel. Look at the costs and implementation of a biomass heating system to see if it is suitable for your business.

Is your business suitable?

Biomass heating tends to be most suitable for:

  • Sites that have regular heating requirements throughout the year. For example: hotels, leisure centres, healthcare facilities and food processing locations.
  • Large sites. A biomass heating system often needs more space than an oil or gas alternative.

Practical considerations

Think about the space, equipment and labour required for biomass heating.

A biomass system may need a new plant room or an extension. Carefully consider and design the space required for boilers, buffer tanks and thermal stores.

The type of biomass fuel is a key starting point. Wood is one of the most commonly used biomass fuels. The characteristics of each form of wood fuel influences the choice of boiler type, fuel storage and delivery process.

Review the fuel delivery methods needed for your business. Consider the frequency of deliveries, site accessibility, and any possible disruption to your business. Early communication with fuel suppliers is needed to establish delivery method.

Biomass systems need more fuel storage space than other heating systems. Biomass fuels have a lower energy density. This means a larger volume of fuel is required to supply an equal amount of energy.

Your business should ensure that the correct fuel storage is used. This will depend on:

  • Type of fuel used
  • Delivery of fuel
  • Location of the boiler
  • Available space (above or below ground, part of existing or purpose-built buildings, or a containerised system)
  • Adequate ventilation

Types of fuel store include:

  • Bunkers
  • Bag silos
  • Hopper and silos

Biomass boilers differ to fossil fuel boilers.

Size

Biomass boilers are larger than oil and gas equivalents. Consider the space and access required for ash removal, cleaning and fuel feed.

Responsiveness

Biomass boilers take longer to respond to rapid changes in heat demand. Thermal storage, good design and intelligent control can easily alleviate this.

Emissions

In addition to carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapour, the main biomass boiler emissions are:

  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Oxides of nitrogen (NOx)
  • Particulate matter (PM)

Consider the correct fuel quality as well as good flue and system designs. These can minimise or eliminate emissions.


 

Biomass heating systems can be operated, maintained and cleaned by in-house staff or a third party service. It is common for the boiler owner to operate the system. They may, however, contract out servicing and repairs to the company that installed the system.

It is common for site staff to take responsibility for some operational duties, for example ash removal. This reduces cost, but staff will require a certain level of training.

Third party maintenance may be carried out by a fuel supplier or alternative contractor. It might be possible for the third party to monitor equipment and carry out simple adjustments remotely. This would minimise the need for a permanent and costly presence on site.

Staying energy-efficient

The energy hierarchy identifies ways to limit the energy demand of a project in a cost and resource efficient way. The key principles include:
 

  1. Reduce end-use energy demand through energy efficiency.

  2. Supply energy efficiently, ensuring that demand can be met in a cost-effective way.

  3. Use renewable and low-carbon technologies.

Getting started

Businesses should invest time and resources into planning and design stages. Organisations that do this will benefit from a smoother installation process.

It is important to appoint the appropriate professionals at all stages in your biomass heating system implementation. They are costly systems with complex designs.

Early communication with relevant stakeholders and professionals can save time and money. Contacts should include:

  • Fuel suppliers
  • Heating system designers
  • Boiler installers
  • Regulatory authorities
  • Neighbours
  • County council (if planning permission is needed)

Best practice guides for solid biomass

Principally intended for site or facility owners who are considering installing a biomass boiler system. It outlines how to project manage a biomass system from idea to commissioning. 

Principally intended for engineers, consultants and installers. This provides a guide to understand the technology of biomass boiler systems, good practice and technical issues.

Principally intended for users such as facilities, engineering and environmental managers, and technical maintenance staff. This provides a guide for the ongoing management of biomass systems.