Growers toying with installing renewable heating systems have a new stimulus after the Government improved incentives in December's autumn statement.
Some growers held back on decisions to install biomass boilers last year, expecting favourable changes to the renewable heat incentive (RHI) from chancellor George Osborne, which came as a rise from 1p to 2p per kilowatt-hour.
The RHI is a Government scheme to encourage uptake of renewable heat technologies such as biomass, heat pumps, geothermal, solar thermal and biogas through financial incentives. Payments made on a quarterly basis depend on the type and capacity of technology and how much energy is used.
The Government wants to encourage 12 per cent of heating to come from renewable sources by 2020. Double H was one nursery that held off until the statement but is now going ahead. Managing director Neil Stevenson hopes to have a £1.5m system in operation by the end of 2014. He suggested the Government may have underplayed it to cover themselves because it is still subject to EU ratification on state aid.
Some nurseries such as Pentland in Scotland and Earley Ornamentals in North Yorkshire have taken the plunge and installed biomass boilers. Independent grower and supplier Earley Ornamentals recently booted up a biomass heating system to save fossil-fuel energy and cut CO2 emissions.
The company commissioned two biomass boilers with outputs of 950kW and 199kW. Both feature moving-grate technology to allow the use of a wider range of fuels. Managing director Simon Earley said: "We've had this project on the cards for some time. The savings that we will enjoy make it worth the investment."
The Kalvis-MI and the smaller D'Alessandro CSA GM will save the family-run business near Thirsk 664 tonnes of CO2 each year across the 5ha site. Its gas-oil system, which gulped up to 250,000 litres of oil a year, has been retained for back-up and disaster recovery purposes. The company grows more than 180 million young plants a year.
Earley said: "Biomass brings much lower carbon emissions, improves energy efficiency by more than 20 per cent and, by sourcing woodchip locally, allows us to support our rural economy."
Tulip grower Redford Flowers bought a woodchip boiler under the RHI and hopes to save £30,000 a year in fuel costs. CPL Renewables supplied the GB-made 975kW Hovel boiler, funded by NatWest.
Nurseries including Double H, Pinetops and Fresh Acres could follow the example of Pentland Plants in Scotland in buying a biomass boiler to cut fuel costs, which saw poinsettia production fall by around 10 per cent in the UK this year.