In the last week I’ve been made aware of two problems with different biomass installations, both of which are due to the use of inappropriate technology for the situation…Last week I was called by a consultant who is involved in a biomass installation project where one of the potential suppliers is recommending the client install a boiler far larger than the heat demand of the project, simply to increase the support the project will get under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
This potential problem was flagged up by a recent piece in Private Eye, which drew a response from Gaynor Hartnell of the REA, who pointed out the potential issue during the design phase of the RHI. In her letter, Gaynor said, ‘Exploiting this perverse incentive is likely to cost any customer dear. Over-sized boilers don’t operate efficiently and can cause serious operational problems. The costs of which are likely to outweigh any extra subsidy earnings.
‘It’s not ideal, and we will do our best to educate customers and warn unscrupulous operators that oversizing boilers is bad practice.’
Unfortunately, it appears that many of the cowboy firms which have been plaguing the PV market for the last couple of years are now jumping into the biomass sector, driven by the fall in FIT rates, the attractiveness of the RHI and amble availability of a wide range of biomass boilers.
If anyone has any information or examples of deliberate over-specifying of boilers, please contact us in confidence.
The second incident was brought to my attention at the weekend and is the complete opposite. Someone visiting a Scottish hotel was surprised to hear that their biomass boiler was very unreliable and consuming bagged pellets at the rate of 1 or 2 bags a day!
I was sent a picture, which turned out to be a 23.7 Lucrezia pellet stove which features a 21kW back boiler, designed for household use. Whichever idiot recommended that this was a suitable unit for a 20 bedroom hotel / hostel in the north of Scotland wants shooting!
From what I can discover, as maximum output this unit will consume about 5kg of pellets an hour to produce ~21kWth. It’s no wonder its eating pellets. As a comparison, one 20 bedroom hostel in Wales has a 150kW biomass boiler. This one is Scotland is effectively just 1/7th of the size it needs to be!
I’ll be passing the details on to a contact who may be able to advise on the the size of boiler required, but I have been warned that, “fixing it is quite low on the list due to cost.”
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