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.
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.
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. The price of heat to the heat customers has not been increased since June 2015.
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-operative is a registered Producer Trader on the Biomass Suppliers list and since 2019 has been producing and using its own wood chip from wood harvested from the adjoining woodlands. 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. For more information on this aspect see the page on Butterflies on this website.
More details of how the project was developed in the period 2014 to 2017 are available on the Blog.
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