Antrim College Signs First Biomass Heat Contract in Ireland

South West College, County Antrim, is the first educational institution in Ireland to sign a ‘heat contract’ with green energy company Rural Generation based in Londonderry, which will see the college save up to £25,000 on heat costs annually.

The college, which houses its own Renewable Energy Academy at the Omagh campus, has already been enjoying the benefits of renewable energy for four years. An initial biomass boiler – a 150 kW Austrian KWB boiler, fuelled by wood chip – was installed when the new college was built in 2006 and supplied approximately 25% of the building’s heat requirement with the remaining 75% being provided by oil boilers.

Impressed with the success of this boiler, South West College purchased a second larger – 250 kW KWB – biomass boiler, six months ago, which was also installed by Rural Generation, bringing the total biomass capacity to 400 kW. Now up to 70% of the college’s heat requirement, which includes space heating and hot water for a 15,000 square metre campus, including classrooms, workshops, library, canteens, common areas, corridors and offices, is provided by biomass.

John Moore, curriculum manager – technology at South West College was on the team that was the main driving force behind the college’s investment in renewable energy technology. “Our boilers use approximately 350 tonnes of wood chip from short rotation coppice willow grown locally and they are very reliable. Our heat contract with Rural Generation works very well for us and we are very happy indeed with the savings we have made on heating costs,” he explains. “Using biomass energy has also helped us reduce the building’s carbon footprint, as our carbon dioxide savings are estimated to be over 400 tonnes per year, and is a good learning resource for our students, especially as we teach renewable technology at the college. It also of course provides a local market for biomass fuel.”

Biomass Heat Contract

Tom Brennan, managing director of Rural Generation, comments: “It is great to see a local college lead by example with renewable technology and we are delighted that South West College has signed a biomass heat contract with ourselves. This type of contract works really well for customers such as schools or colleges as it reduces the risk by guaranteeing a long-term wood fuel supply. It also makes the system of supply and maintenance virtually hassle free for the customer, as we look after every aspect and sell them the heat, based on per kWh of heat used. Overall it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

Tom Brennan continues: “Following an investment of approximately £100,000 in the boilers, South West College is set to make savings on their heating bills of approximately £25,000 per year which gives them a payback on their boilers of just over four years. This is based on today’s price of oil which gives fuel savings of £21,000 annually and £4,800 for carbon savings, based on a value of £12 per tonne for carbon as priced by the carbon reduction commitment framework.”

John Moore adds: “We would definitely recommend a biomass boiler to other schools and colleges and have demonstrated its use to students, other colleges, schools, public and private sector operators and others. We are dedicated to promoting local renewable heat production and very much encourage the uptake of biomass and other renewables for environmental and economic reasons.”


Celine McCartan, head of corporate services at South West College, signs a ‘heat contract’ with Tom Brennan, managing director of Rural Generation.

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