Way back in 2010 we began to explore the possibility of biomass boilers at Croft Castle. The thinking started relatively modest; replacing a couple of oil tanks and boilers in staff accommodation, to all-encompassing – let’s heat everything at the property with biomass and install massive lengths of heat main!
The logic of at the time was if we’re putting a boiler there, it’s not actually that far from…and if we just went a bit further we could hook up… But we’re learning!
To set the scene Croft Castle nestles in peaceful Herefordshire countryside and is surrounded by a 607 hectare estate of woodland, farm and parkland. On a clear day you get good views to Wales (or as it’s becoming known in these parts, The Land of Hydro!)
When we started down this path, the property were paying a fortune for oil, an audit had flagged high risk and non-compliant oil tanks, we had boilers in the Castle that broke down 2 or 3 times a winter, which transpired to be prototypes and spares were very hard to source, yet the property is surrounded by acres of woodland. It wasn’t a big leap to think where the solution might lie!
At the time, there was no funding earmarked for replacing the Castle oil boilers, even like for like, never mind biomass. But the property felt they had a case to make, so we started with a small amount of money to investigate the possibilities. Over the years our thinking has altered to include more buildings (at times far too many!) to January of this year when we learnt the property would be one of five pilot renewable projects to be delivered through an Investment Programme. So now it’s all systems go and we couldn’t be more excited about having something in 12 months, that was pipe dream 3 years ago.
Two project team meetings in and we have narrowed down 8 possible biomass options (including pellet boilers and a variety of different locations for the boiler(s)) to 4 viable options. The current favoured option actually came out of the first project team meeting, which just goes to show what a fresh pair of eyes can bring, even 3 years in! Next step is to seek technical expertise to enable us to submit the business case in June with one recommended way forward.