Farleigh Wallop Estate, the home of the Earl and Countess of Portsmouth and their son the Viscount Lymington, is a beautiful traditional working estate on the outskirts of Basingstoke, Hampshire. The Estate covers 4,000 acres, including 1,000 acres of managed woodland, 60 properties and one tenant farmer growing arable crops and milking a herd of dairy cows.
Lord Lymington took over the running of the Estate in 2009 and has been pro-active in looking at renewable energy to remove the Estate’s reliance on oil and to lower energy costs for the family and its tenants. Lord Lymington was also aware that the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which pays a tariff for every kilowatt (kW) hour of energy generated by renewable energy, would help to fund a move away from oil and LPG.
Lord Lymington approached a specialist renewable energy consultancy company to discuss possible renewable energy options. The consultancy drew up a design plan which was put out to tender to three leading renewable energy providers including Ecovision Renewables and two of its competitors.
“We chose Ecovision as our preferred supplier because we really liked and felt very comfortable with its personal but professional approach throughout the tender process,” said Greta Iddeson, Farleigh Estate’s Manager. “Plus, of course, Ecovision met the tender’s design criteria and importantly, our budget and we were confident that it would provide the attention to detail the installation would require and had the expertise to deliver what we wanted.”
Initially the Estate looked at a ground source heat pump (GSHP) renewable energy solution but as heat and hot water needed to be provided to the three main houses: Farleigh House, Farleigh Valoynes and Farleigh Hassocks, five occupied farm cottages, the Estate and Farm Offices, a privately let office building, a tropical green house and potting shed via a district network of 700 metres, which would require multiple GSHP’s pumps it was decided that a biomass solution was the right choice.
Key in the decision to deploy a biomass solution was the Estate’s 1,000 acres of managed woodland. The natural thinning of the trees would provide an environmentally friendly use of the Estate’s soft wood – as wood chip to fuel the biomass boiler. Ecovision installed two x ETA HACK200 biomass boilers, fuelled by the Estate’s wood chip, which are capable of providing up to 1MW of energy, more than enough to provide heat and hot water to the 13 properties across the installation site.
The biomass system has been designed, by Ecovision, to the highest specification with every aspect of the installation incorporating redundancy capabilities. Ecovision has also included design features which deliver unique advantages such as a fuel monitoring system which sends an e-mail alert when fuel levels are low, a remote heat meter reading system connected to the online boiler systems and a ‘traffic light’ warning system indicating fuel level, faults and a correctly operating system.
Several new safety features were designed into the Estate’s installation including a fuel store entry system which prevents unauthorised access to the wood chip fuel store and a CO detector, located in the plant room, which will safely shut the boiler system down if necessary. In order to connect the biomass boilers to the 13 properties, to benefit from renewable energy, it was necessary to dig a network of 700 metres of trenches at a depth of 1.2 metres to house the required pipework.
“The digging of the trenches did cause some disruption but we took advantage of this by using the same trenches to update the ageing water supply to the Estate’s farmyard,” explained Iddeson.
The installation of the Estate’s biomass solution was completed in four months and was commissioned in July 2014. The overall cost including the two ETA biomass boilers, a 560kW Viessman back-up boiler (which has not been used), the ground work, digging the trenches, a new three-phase electricity supply, and all work to connect the new pipework to the existing radiators in all 13 properties was approximately £450,000.
“The Government’s RHI was a big driver in our decision to move to renewable energy,” commented Iddeson. “The RHI payments combined with savings against the previous cost of our oil and LPG mean our biomass installation will pay for itself in around six years, and as the payments will continue for the remaining 14 years, the Estate will receive a significant return on its original investment.”
The biomass renewable energy system has not only enabled the Estate to take control of part of its energy costs, it will help to reduce the Estate’s overall energy costs. The RHI payments will not only play a key role in funding the installation, once the system has paid for itself, they will provide a regular income for the Estate. “So far, we are very happy with the biomass system Ecovision has delivered for us. We have already given our next door neighbour a guided tour of our installation and our tenant farmer recently hosted a farm walk for 300 farmers, who were invited to have a look at what we have done,” concluded Lord Lymington.