The Townie Farmer

Building the good life without knowing a sodding thing

Biomass Spoiler

It was meant to be the epitome of our new way of life at Rowan Farm.

The Eco pivot on which we balanced our attempts to reduce our carbon footprint and live more sustainably.

Our plans for a state of the art biomass boiler would efficiently heat our home and water.

What’s more, all the fuel it needed was already on site in the twigs and logs provided by the maintenance our trees require.

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Rowan Farm at sunrise

It was about as green as it’s possible to get.

But last week our biomass ambitions went up in smoke.

We got the final estimate.

And it’s more than three times what we had budgeted.

We simply cannot afford it.

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The bad news comes at a tricky time.

The last couple of months of a project are always a bit manic.

Budgets start to get squeezed; time marches on; husbands/project managers fall really ill with Lyme Disease from a tick…

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Plastering and second fix electrics underway despite our heating system hitting a roadblock

We’ve been marching on regardless with interiors and external finishing touches.

But with the boiler we hit a bit of a dead end.

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Internorm windows and doors have been fitted…

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…and the cladding is very nearly complete, bar weathering to it’s eventual grey colour to match the roof shingles and original barn posts

In many ways we are victims of our own success.

We have insulated the house so well that the heat a biomass boiler churns out now massively exceeds our demands.

And all the relevant green government grants that might help us are based on use rather than initial outlay for a boiler.

 

Here’s the maths:

A regular boiler would set you back about £1k.

We had decided to cough up for around £12k in order to have biomass.

But the bill turns out to be more like £36k.

If we’re lucky, we might get a few hundred quid from the government to help.

It just ain’t enough.

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Even with the incredible generosity of our financial support system (aka my dad), we can’t make it work.

So in true first world problem style: we’ve panicked. I’ve (nearly) cried. And we’ve called on our usual Eco big wig consultant (aka Oli’s dad).

As luck would have it, Peter is the Professor for Engineering for Sustainable Development at Cambridge University.

Which is handy.

With a bit of head scratching we’ve come up with a compromise.

We can do some clever things to make a normal boiler super efficient including reducing the demands on it and generating our own electricity to power it.

But I’m still sad about the loss of the biomass boiler.

It was so out there, so innovative, so earthy.

So Rowan.

But maybe in the dead of winter when I’m not having to hand feed logs into a boiler that cost more than anything else on the build just to have a hot shower…

I might feel slightly differently.

1 Comment

  1. Peter Hurley (DT department - LWC)

    September 20, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    I have a 14kw wood burner with a back boiler which is more than adequate to heat and provide hot water for my 3 bedroomed cottage.

    Just a thought.

    Peter

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