Nothing is wasted

Stephenson College in Coalville, Leicestershire, is a leading provider of renewable training and was one of the first educational institutions to cover alternative heating solutions.

Thanks to a partnership with the Baxi group, the college offers state-of-the-art working examples, including wood biomass and air source heat pumps, complemented by solar thermal, rain and grey water harvesting. A new addition is a research project to monitor the energy and money-saving affects of small scale CHP.

However, this is far more than just an academic exercise as most of the technologies are providing useful power and heat for the college buildings.

“Nothing is wasted,” says Low Carbon Project Manager Patrick Maxwell. “We have an extensive range of renewable training, but we also get a major, practical benefit from the technologies as well.”

A Dachs combined heat and power (CHP) unit from Baxi-SenerTec generates 80% of the hot water for the extension built to add a third more space capacity to the College. In addition, 5.5 kW of 3-phase electrical power is produced.

Energy and cash

“This has already saved us a great deal of energy and cash – as part of our commitment to monitoring the benefits of carbon busting technologies, the college has been keeping a close eye on the benefits,” says Mr Maxwell.

Inside the new training centre, further heat is supplied by a solar thermal water and space heating system, servicing radiators and providing additional hot water. At high enough temperatures, heat is exchanged into the college’s secondary hot water supply, thus saving energy.

The college now offers wood biomass training because of its growing popularity in rural communities where it is seen as an alternative for buildings previously relying on oil-fired or LPG heating and as a sustainable use for the UK’s many acres of managed woodland. Perfect for larger domestic applications and public buildings, such as churches and schools, biomass also provides a free heating solution for factories or workshops where wood is a by-product. Mr Maxwell says: “The boilers, which were installed 18 months ago, are a welcome addition, but despite lots of interest, the take-up of wood biomass hasn’t matched the popularity of the better known renewable courses.”

“I believe that the main reason for this is because, at present, you don’t have to get Micro Certification Scheme (MCS) accreditation to install the technology, suggesting that there may be some less scrupulous installers fitting these boilers without proper training.

“The other reason may be a lack of understanding regarding this marketplace – while not a solution for every property, wood biomass is a growing sector, with sophisticated technology that, in the right application, easily competes with more traditional heating solutions.”

As with all renewables it requires a bit more thought than simply plumbing in a boiler, Mr Maxwell adds: “The fuel type, storage, access to the building and space available all needs to be taken into account. It is not a solution for everyone and must be specified correctly. Part of what we teach is making sure that installers give customers all the facts before choosing any, so called, green technologies.”

The college also strongly backs the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) as it believes this will make renewable technologies viable for more people.

“Installers ignore these alternative technologies at their peril. If not the RHI, some other funding scheme is likely to come into play next year, so, if you want to get involved, MCS accreditation will be required.”

Portfolio

The partnership with Baxi Group is clearly working for both parties – particularly as the company can provide a complete portfolio of technical solutions.

“We’re delighted to be working in such close partnership with Stephenson College,” says Baxi-SenerTec’s Business Manager, David Shaw. “Their renewable training facilities are excellent and this kind of resource will become increasingly important to the success of the micro-generation market. Heating engineers need to acquire the correct skills to install this technology properly and, by bettering their understanding, can advise customers on the different options available.

“Everyone in the building services sector has a vested interest in encouraging the take-up of these technologies, but only where they are supported by comprehensive, accredited training.”

Wood biomass boilers

The Baxi biomass boilers installed at Stephenson College are set-up in a working system, providing unvented hot water and warmth for radiators and underfloor heating. Boilers and associated technology include the Baxi7 wood pellet/chip multi heat boiler and Innova log boiler, plus buffer cylinder.

To ensure carbon neutrality, the fuel is sourced locally within a 16 mile radius. The logs are purchased from a landscape gardener/tree surgeon, who supplies two-year old soft and hardwood logs. The pellets are bought from a range of different fuel suppliers with quality checked by the college and meeting EU guidelines.

Combined Heat and Power

While not a training course as yet, the Baxi-Senertec Dachs CHP unit provides much of the heat and hot water for the new renewable centre. The College has been keeping data of the savings made and from 1 September 2009 to 19 March 2010 the unit ran for 2755 hours, generated 36,144 kWh of thermal energy and 15,309 kWh of electrical energy. This equated to an average of 13kW per hour thermal, and 5.5kW per hour electrical output.

Figure 1 shows the savings made in terms of thermal energy, electrical energy and CO2 savings.

Over the same period, the data of the electrical 3-phase energy produced from the CHP was gathered. Again, this is represented in graphical form in figure 2.

In order to observe the potential monetary savings that this could make, the electrical output into the building was applied to an ‘electricity distribution & metering charge’ of £0.05 per kWh. The savings shown in figure 3 ignore any efficiency savings of the thermal outputs, and of any electrical supply back into the National Grid.

Stephenson College’s New Technology Centre trains operatives in the design and installation of micro generation products including domestic solar hot water, ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps, rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling along with underfloor heating.

Its newest course, Wood Fuelled Biomass Boilers and Stove Heating, covers system costs, funding and government policy, plus fuel characteristics and a technical overview of biomass heating systems and how to specify them. This BPEC certificate is recognised under MCS and can be used as evidence to apply to HETAS.

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