Keeping Tranmer Toasty with Biomass

In the East of England, we’re progressing well with the introduction of more renewable systems and getting off oil and other fossil fuels. Our renewables Project Manager, Dee Nunn, tells us about the new biomass boiler at Sutton Hoo…

Boiler house at sunset (taken by volunteer Sarah Haille)

Boiler house at sunset (taken by volunteer Sarah Haille)

This winter, Tranmer House – part of the Sutton Hoo Estate by the Suffolk coast – has ditched fossil fuels with the installation of our new biomass boiler.

Tranmer House was the home of Mrs Edith Pretty when, in 1938, she enlisted the help of local archaeologist Basil Brown to excavate the mysterious mounds she could see from her window. The excavation uncovered an Anglo Saxon ship burial – one of the richest burial sites ever found in Northern Europe!

The Anglo Saxons would have had little choice but to use wood fires to keep themselves warm but Tranmer House has moved to wood fuel in a much more high tech way!

Running on sustainable wood pellets, the boiler has been installed into an outbuilding thought to have been a former coal store. We had to make a few subtle changes to the building to convert it to a biomass plant room including adding a new chimney specially designed to match the existing one and the addition of delivery pipes for the pellet to be blown into our 16 tonne fuel store.

False chimney is lifted into place

False chimney is lifted into place

Unfortunately the Sutton Hoo estate does not produce enough wood to allow us to grow our own fuel like we are doing at other properties in the Trust such as Ickworth house. Our pellet will be sourced from sustainably managed woodlands in the UK and, because pellet is much denser than wood chip, we can minimise the number of deliveries we will need each year reducing the fuel used to transport it.

Our forklift driver needed a very steady hand to ease the boiler through a tight doorway into the plant room

Our forklift driver needed a very steady hand to ease the boiler through a tight doorway into the plant room

1.	Wood pellets are fed from the fuel store into the boiler combustion chamber using a screw auger where the fire is automatically started and maintained. 2.	Water is passed through a heat exchanger over the combustion chamber which absorbs heat. 3.	The water is stored in massive thermal stores which hold a 4400 litres of hot water up to 85C. 4.	When heat or hot water is required in each of the five separate heating zones in the house the control systems open valves and run pumps to transfer heat to the relevant heat exchangers through an underground heat main. 5.	The boiler automatically clears its ash into two metal boxes and will email us when they need emptying.

1. Wood pellets are fed from the fuel store into the boiler combustion chamber using a screw auger where the fire is automatically started and maintained.
2. Water is passed through a heat exchanger over the combustion chamber which absorbs heat.
3. The water is stored in massive thermal stores which hold 4400 litres of hot water up to 85C.
4. When heat or hot water is required in each of the five separate heating zones in the house, the control systems open valves and run pumps to transfer heat to the relevant heat exchangers through an underground heat main.
5. The boiler automatically clears its ash into two metal boxes and will email us when they need emptying.

Our biomass boiler is the second phase of the renewables programme at Sutton Hoo following the installation of 174 solar panels to the visitor centre roofs in January 2016.

around half of the electricity required by the visitor centre is generated by the PV panels

Around half of the electricity required by the visitor centre is generated by the PV panels

The installation was part of a corporate partnership arrangement between the National Trust and Panasonic.  Having been in place for nearly a year, these panels have exceeded our expectations generating over 48MWh of electricity – that’s the equivalent of the average annual electricity consumption of 14 UK homes.

Sutton Hoo is challenging itself to heat even more of the estate with renewables – watch this space in 2017!

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Energy Market going through some rough seas. Good for selling bad for buying

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-21-50-41It’s been an interesting few months in the export business (generated electricity that is). The first of the predicted energy supply companies went to the wall this week. GB Energy had 150,000 customers (including my father in law!) and the press are hinting that this is the first of a few more who don’t have the reserves or contracted generation to supply energy at fixed low rates.

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-22-04-08On the flip side with such uncertainty in the market, sellers / generators of energy such as anything over 30kw with a half hour meters are being killed in the rush in terms of who can offer the highest figure for export from the suppliers. Last week we were offered over 9p per kWh at peak (after 5pm and before 8pm) this is a huge leap as the above graph which illustrates the last few years in terms for quotes we have received. The reasons are many and both global and local (20% of the French nuclear stations are off undergoing new safety inspections and we get quite a bit of this) The amount of spare capacity we have in the UK in terms of ‘what if ‘scenarios are at their lowest for many years and many of our old coal-fired power stations are very old indeed. This morning I read that the French interconnector (one of the cables we have connecting us the mainland Europe is running at half-capacity for the next three months because of damage) It makes for an interesting cocktail for National Grid to keep the lights on. The lights wont go off but the balancing charges (what it costs to deal with winter emergencies such as buying in from lots of Irish Diesel generation) will be very high and thus our domestic bills will also go up. We lack a coherent plan as a country to get out of this hole. Switching big consumers off and paying them a small fortune for the privilege is not really the answer. Everyone is talking about flexibility but it is yet to be seen at a country level. meanwhile the rollercoaster of the energy market keeps on making some very rich and bankrupting others but now much quicker because the margins are so fine

Brent crude prices which are closely linked to energy costs are up but not by much but what this hides is that the pound has dropped by around 18% and crude is traded in dollars. more  cost increases on energy

Brent crude prices which are closely linked to energy costs are up but not by much but what this hides is that the pound has dropped by around 18% and crude is traded in dollars. more cost increases on energy on the way. The winners will be energy generators. the losers will be you and me!

From National Grid. We only have 1.1% spare capacity at peak this winter! ‘National Grid predicted a capacity margin of 1.1 per cent during peak hours this winter, rising to 6.6 per cent once of the Supplemental Balancing Reserve. However, both these figures assumed 2 GW of net imports from continental Europe, partly through the damaged French interconnector.’ Not a way to run a country!

We have to make more renewable energy and support the on-doing development rather than the current dwarfing renewable energy support with the money going to mend and make-do of demand side management



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Climate change mitigation and getting off oil. Latest installment!

The Welsh Governemnts Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee with the brains (project manager) behind the new Penrhyn Castle Biomass centre Elgan Roberts

The Welsh Government’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee  together with the brains (project manager) behind the new Penrhyn Castle Biomass centre Elgan Roberts (in red on the left)

Thursday was a good day. we were invited by the Climate Change Environment and Rural Affairs Committee in Welsh government to show our plans, discussions and projects and so on Wednesday we had an NT and partners day. The weather was superb (cold, snow on the peaks and sunny) the 7 Assembly members of the committee visited a National Trust tenanted farm to see and discuss the future of the uplands, which is very pertinent given all the uncertainties. What do we want the uplands to do for us? there was a good couple of sessions organised by the local farmers, RSPB and ourselves. Plenty food for thought. Abandonment will give us one outcome, stewardship will give us another. From here we went to Bwthyn Ogwen for lunch and an orientation to the Ogwen Valley. We were discussing the new heating system for the centre, the use and further partnerships in the development of Bwthyn Ogwen, which is primarily to get young people up into the mountains.

It was an early start to the day. Live interviews early morning for BBC Good Moring Wales and BBC Post Cyntaf. this is me looking serious and thinking 'i must brush the floor'!

It was an early start to the day. Live interviews early morning for BBC Good Morning Wales and BBC Cymru Post Cyntaf. I was discussing renewables and the National Trust. This is me looking serious and thinking ‘I must brush the floor’!

Down the valley to meet the Community of Bethesda developing the Ogwen Hydro (Ynni Ogwen) and Energy Local supply system. (we also had Ynni Padarn Peris and Anafon community hydro representatives there as well.) Sharing what we had learnt. The 100kw low head hydro is now more than 50% complete. Gwyn Roberts the contractors were in fact slate roofing the powerhouse when we visited and also fusion welding the 900mm penstock (supply pipe). The Assembly Members were in receive and questioning mode in terms of how difficult renewable energy systems are to develop and also how things could be made more streamlined

It was a 'fresh' day in the Ogwen valley with the Committee.  We all agreed that climate change is here now and we have yet to really grab hold of the subject across Wales.

It was a ‘fresh’ day in the Ogwen valley with the Committee. We all agreed that climate change is here now and we have yet to really grab hold of the subject across Wales.

End of the day was in Penrhyn Castle to officially open the new 300kw biomass system at the castle. But also to recognise the fact that this was the last major oil use property in National Trust Wales to ‘get off oil’ thanks to the National Trust Renewable energy Investment program and especially because of the skills of the project manager Elgan Roberts. We have a stunning building made from the timber at the property and burns fuel from less than 15 miles away.

Sian Gwenllian the Arfon Assembly member pressing the red button to get the flames going on the biomass. Elgan showing off his new buttons!

Sian Gwenllian the Arfon Assembly member pressing the red button to get the flames going on the biomass. Elgan showing off his new buttons!

Fast feed biomass auger system flanked by an Elgan Roberts and a Huw Irraca-Davies AM. 'Nice Auger!'

Fast feed biomass auger system flanked by an Elgan Roberts and a Huw Irranca-Davies AM. ‘Nice Auger!’

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MOPs, Triads, LEC’s, REGOs and other such weird terms. Selling your generated energy… simple. Hah!

syzygy_energyimportexport_artworkThe following is what I understand of the energy market by dabbling at the periphery. Now that you’re making electricity you decide to move out of the guaranteed minimum value, set by the government for all generators under the Feed in Tariff scheme. This is currently 4.92p per kwh and is actually not too bad based on the quite low whole cost in the market for the last 5 or so months. The price is currently mildly skyrocketing. But if you have a larger than 30kw system and have such a thing as an export meter or have gone the whole hog and probably around £500 per annum in charges for managing your data, you have half hour meter. (which provides the lingua franca for energy data in the UK) Energy is split in 48 units each of half hour and each one has a slightly different value. (the energy before and after Coronation Street is worth so much more than at three a.m. energy) but you want to sell of your energy! You ask for a quote from various companies. The first thing which strikes you is that they all quote slightly differently for example one companies peak price (the Coronation Street energy) stops by 8pm and another one goes on to 12:00 am. Some do five-day Corrie’ price whereas others do seven days. You will have 12 months of your production data and so can see when and how much (you might have peak and off-peak, winter and summer, weekend and weekday prices to compare and all of the combinations of these variables) lots of data crunching to get a wholesale price. Some suppliers build in the embedded benefits into the wholesale. Woooaah… what are embedded I hear you say? These are payments distribution-connected generators can earn from reducing network usage I took the following from the Elexon website of how the charging system works for these benefits

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I’m glad that’s nice and clear now! Another Hah! There are also ‘use of systems charges’. You get paid or you get invoiced (depends where you are in the system and when you connected in terms of grid reinforcement or upgrading) Triad payments for generating for a specific time when the grid is stressed and also climate change payments under the Levy exemption certificate and then REGO’s. I’m not going to teach how the electricity charging market works (not sure I fully understand it myself) the main focus is how do you get the best price and how you compare like with like especially when there is no consistency in quoting, management fees (watch out for this one), pass through percentages for benefits (what % of the embedded is passed on to you and what the supplier keeps as commission) and the list goes on. Do you use a broker to take care of it (not a good financial experience to date on this as we seem to be getting better prices if we ‘nose to grindstone’ ourselves or you have the time. The answer? Not sure. Currently working with a few people  to see if we can do some form of comparison tool. the problem is that some quotes only last for a few hours as it’s such a dynamic place out there in planet energy market at the moment. we have just received a peak price in excess of 9 pence per kwh from one supplier who is probably nervous of having to pick up hefty imbalance charges this winter as there is a some doubt on the amount of electricity available and all it takes is one of the big embedded generators to go off for an hour or so in Dec to Feb and a lot of money changes hands very quickly. Work in progress!

ps MOP’s as well as cleaning the floor are Meter Opperators

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Best dressed on the COP Carpet

I know this is a blog about sustainable technologies and practical solutions and that many readers are more interested in boiler rooms than boiler suits, but I’ve got Keith’s log-in details (mwahahaha) and am hijacking the blog to bring you a little bit of fashion. I’ve hit the COP carpet and bring you a selection of the best dressed from the 22nd UN conference on climate change.

This isn’t just an excuse to take photos of clothes (promise!) it’s an attempt to convey the diversity and range of everyone here and give you a sense of the scale of collaboration. There are 25,000 people in total, around 200 nations represented in the negotiations and many more communities partaking in side events; I will probably never get the opportunity to be surrounded by so many different languages, identities and cultures again in my life. It’s extraordinary. As they say, ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. So without further adieu……

Two women from Mauritania. Syeda Mint Khayarhoum (on the left) has set up a sustainable energy charity in the country.

Two women from Mauritania. Syeda Mint Khayarhoum (on the left) has set up a sustainable energy charity there.

Nicola Tollin from Italy, I interrupted whilst he was on his way to the negotiating rooms.....oops!

Nicola Tollin from Italy and Director of RESURBE (International Program on Urban Resilience), I interrupted whilst he was on his way to the negotiating rooms…..oops!

Didn't get this woman's name either, but she wanted to go against the sign because her skirt had just come undone and was falling down!

Didn’t get this woman’s name, but she wanted to lean against the sign because her skirt had just come undone and was falling down!

Nordine from Morocco who made all the sculptures that are in the village (made from scrap metal). He broke his foot whilst creating the works of art

Nordine from Morocco who made all the sculptures that are in the village (made from scrap metal). He broke his foot last month

Head of the Environmental Protection Agency in Liberia and her chaperone (didn't know this when I started talking to them!)

Head of the Environmental Protection Agency in Liberia and her chaperone

A Berber woman in traditional dress from South West Morocco.

A Berber woman in traditional dress from South West Morocco.

These two are from the Government of Bhutan and self confessed 'COP veterans'

These two are from the Government of Bhutan and self confessed COP veterans

This is Maurice, from an Amazonian tribe in Brasil.

This is Maurice from an Amazonian tribe in Brasil.

 

A climate change activist from Guatemala, she has set up her own network for indigenous women who are trying to protect their land from development.

A climate change activist from Guatemala, she has set up her own network for indigenous women who are trying to protect their land from development.

Mohammed Alsinaidi from Oman and the focal point action for UNFCCC

Mohammed Alsinaidi from Oman and the focal point action for UNFCCC

I didn't get this guys' name as he was rushing off to a meeting, but he insisted I got in the photo too!

I didn’t get this guys’ name as he was rushing off to a meeting, but he insisted I got in the photo too!

 

These three from Senegal have got to be the sassiest of them all.

These three from Senegal have got to be the sassiest of them all.

I could have posted 100 more, there more I looked the more I realized how different everyone was, and everyone has their own story to tell. SO inspiring.

And boy do I wish I could get away with some of these outfits in the office.

 


 

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We have made over five million

Five million Kilowatt hours that is on our Snowdon hydro. Just a quick blog.  Or five Gigawatts if you speak big numbers. That’s the equivalent of a lot of renewable energy in two and a bit years!

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its been a weird year. this holley has now not been without fruit for well over a year. Change is happening. look up how you boil a frog so that a frog does not react and then think of the world we live in!

Its been a weird year. This Holley has now not been without fruit for well over a year. Change is happening. Look up how you boil a frog so that a frog does not react and then think of the world we live in! – The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is put in cold water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that rise gradually.

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PS hydro flat-out and river is full. Enough water for all!

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Getting off oil… down to the knitty gritty. Ground source heat pumps in some farms (with moles)

Beudy Gwyn in the Ysbyty Ifan estate is the latest building to undergo a green overhaul.

Beudy Gwyn farm in the Ysbyty Ifan estate is the latest building to undergo a green overhaul to make it fit for the future

The NT in Wales are in the final stretch in terms of getting off oil on its heating in its in-hand buildings across Wales but we still have with a couple of years to go (as ever this is another blog) But in Snowdonia the team at the property are taking the lessons from our holiday cottage heating research and applying them to some our farms and overhauling them in a very green way. Yesterday I was with Emyr Hall the building surveyor for the NT having a nose at one of the works in progress. Namely the overhaul to re-let of a small 30 acre farm overlooking the estate. Lots of normal things going on which included new LED lighting all over the farm and generally getting the empty property ready but also a new heating system with this being a 17kw NIBE ground source heat pump.

Triple radiators are not as small as one might think. design design and some design

Triple radiators are not as small as one might think. Design design and some design

The cottage needed a new radiator system and so this was sized to take the lower temp of a heat pump. Our first for the NT was the installation of the heat collector in nearby field. But this was not our normal coil buried 1.7m meters down but a mole ploughed collector which was ploughed in 600mm deep and at just under 700m meters in length which  was achieved in 2 days. This drastically reduced the installation cost (mole ploughing is roughly half the price of a buried coil which is roughly half the price of a borehole system) yes you need more surface area based on the shallowness of the collector but the efficiency is still there. The speed of the install which was roughly 2 days for the plumbing and 2 days for the plough reduced the capital cost significantly (but you do need a field close by!) Emyr has quite a few more heat pump systems in the pipeline as it were. (ps based on the previous HFC blog NIBIE are one of those companies with an eye to the future with an easily replaced / slotted out compressor for a non HFC future)

kitchen getting ready resplendent with its new heat pump

The kitchen getting ready and resplendent with its new heat pump

Nice simple controls which are enabled for wifi and remote control and diagnostics.

Nice simple controls which are enabled for wifi and remote control and diagnostics.

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