Nurseries turn to renewables

Growers install photovoltaic cells and biomass boilers to cut costs and lower carbon emissions.

Two nurseries have decided to install renewable energy schemes to meet their electricity and heating needs.

Oxfordshire hedging and tree nursery Nicholsons has installed 200 photovoltaic cells to produce electricity and an 85kW Gilles chip-fired boiler to use the company's waste wood to heat three offices, a barn and a house.

Director Niel Nicholson said the generating capacity should provide its annual needs. The nursery would receive payments through the Feed in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive schemes, he added.

"It cost £120,000 for the photovoltaic cells and probably a similar amount for the boiler because we needed a building for it. We're looking at pay back in eight years."

Meanwhile, Hampshire houseplant grower Double H has won planning consent to install a biomass boiler that will generate heat and electricity for the nursery.

Managing director Neil Stevenson explained: "We want to stabilise our energy costs so we're not in the hands of ever-increasing fossil fuel prices, and we want to reduce our carbon emissions.

"Biomass is the right thing for us. We use a consistent heat load and that's what you need to make this kind of equipment work. Also, we don't need a lot of carbon dioxide like some nurseries."

He added that there is still a lot of work to do. "We need a permit from the Environment Agency to run the plant. The process will take six months and construction will take a year, but it will probably be a bit longer."

The project will cost £7.5m. The combined heat and power is designed to burn waste wood recycled from skips, said Stevenson. "That means we need extra equipment to control the flue gas emissions, which puts the cost up but the fuel will be a bit cheaper."

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