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WC plans to burn wood in schools

January 18, 2012 11:26 PM
By Trevor Carbin

Wiltshire Council is proposing to spend £2,730,000 on installing biomass boilers in 32 schools in the county. It's estimated that over a twenty year period the new boilers would pay for themselves and return a £3m profit as schools would pay the council for the heat generated.

The government has created a Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to encourage development of a wood-chip industry in the UK. As with feed-in tarriffs the grants available are generous for those who are quick enough to get in early, but are likely to be less so in future, so the boilers would need to be operational by November this year.

A further benefit would be the generation of a local woodchip industry - farmers, landowners and tree surgeons would be able to sell wood to the council, and jobs would be generated in woodland management. Using biofuel is not seen as creating CO2 emissions so the council would be more likely to meet emissions targets. And financially the rocketing price of oil means the projected benefits could be an underestimate.

One possible downside to the scheme is the movement of schools to academy status, which would mean they may not be willing or able to work with the council in future and the taxpayer investment would be lost. However the council's Capital Assets Committee has approved the expenditure with an immediate start on the process needed to get a contractor in place. In order to meet the deadline a tight timescale will see work continuing over the summer to get the boilers in place by November.

The report is in: Agenda details on public web site