Springbok Sustainable Wood Heat Co-operative has operated a wood chip fuelled district heating system on the Springbok Estate near Alfold, Surrey since June 2015.


The Springbok Estate does not have access to the gas grid and prior to the installation of the biomass system the heating was supplied by about 20 oil boilers, some of which were quite old and inefficient. The main resident of the Estate is Care Ashore which is a charity providing accommodation for retired and convalescent seafarer. Affordable and reliable heat and hot water is not only vital but is a legal requirement. Care Ashore had explored installing a woodchip biomass system to replace the ageing boilers but had reluctantly concluded it could not afford the  high capital outlay,  The social enterprise model therefore provided a good solution as the social enterprise was able to raise the necessary capital. In 2014/2015 the Springbok Co-operative raised a total of £425,000 through two community share offers and between November 2014 and June 2015 it installed a district heating system to supply heat and hot water to  various residential buildings on the estate which the Springbok Co-op now maintains and operates.

Sachel Court and Radcliffe House

Sachel Court and Radcliffe House

To achieve this a new boiler house and underground fuel silo were built and three heat mains with a combined length of just over half a kilometre were buried underground.

Boiler house and fuel silo

The system is now fully operational and is successfully supplying both heat and hot water to the estate buildings. More details of the district heating system are available elsewhere on this website.

The heat customers including Care Ashore pay the co-op for heat and the Renewable Heat Incentive is also being claimed at the rate applicable for 1 April 2015 to 30 June 2015 as during this period the boilers were commissioned.

Springbok Estate is a good location for such a project because as well as being off gas grid it is located in one of the most heavily wooded areas of England and the system is run on locally produced wood chip.  The Co-op is currently supplied with local wood chip by South East Wood Fuels.

Creating a local market for wood chip and bringing unmanaged local woodland back into sustainable management also creates opportunities for local employment as well as contributing to improving the ecology and  biodiversity of the woods.  An exciting opportunity to help both the endangered Wood White butterfly and also to improve the local habitat for nightingales through responsible woodland management has been identified in Springbok’s own woodlands and on adjoining woodlands. For more information on this aspect see the page on Butterflies and Birds on this website.

More details of how the project has developed since planning was granted in July 2014 are available on the Blog which is written by one of the Co-op Directors.

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News & Blog

Springbok Co-op to produce 100% of own wood chip by 2019

Following the grant of planning permission for a woodchip storage barn on a site a few hundred yards to the biomass installation, Springbok Co-op has announced that it expects to be able to move to producing 100% of the 250 tonnes of wood chip it needs annually to supply the Springbok boilers by the end of 2019.   The Co-op is currently stockpiling very low quality roundwood and “brash”  from the woodlands in the immediate area.  This timber product is of no interest to the commercial timber trade and would otherwise be left to rot down in the woods (suppressing the…

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Reducing heat losses in distribution

For those of you at the AGM earlier in the summer, you may remember that one of the Directors, Martin Crane, produced some rather stark figures for the heat losses running into thousands of pounds per annum particularly from Estate North – the system supplying the bungalows and maisonettes down the longer heat main. This is a cost the co-op has to bear as we don’t get paid for losses between the boiler house and the RHI meters which is fair enough as far as the RHI is concerned (for anybody reading this blog for the first time, this isn’t…

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