By Steph Hall, Project Manager, and Miranda Campbell, Lead Consultant
This morning, Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, visited Ickworth, Suffolk, to formerly open our new woodchip boiler and hear about how it will be sustainably fuelled from the Ickworth estate. The day started with a view – through binoculars – of the log pile on the other side of the estate, currently drying after being felled and extracted last summer. Head Ranger, Dee Gathorne-Hardy, discussed the reason for thinning woodlands, in order to improve tree strength and biodiversity. In the past, Ickworth would have sold the timber extracted and been lucky to cover its cost of doing so. Now, with a boiler to feed, the timber can be kept on site whilst eliminating the use of over 38,000 litres of heating oil, and saving over 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum.
Amber was impressed by the sympathetic conversion of the former 1960s’ garages, a back of house area that was previously not open to visitors. The property took the opportunity to regenerate the area which is very close to the gardens with the new façade taking inspiration from the Ickworth stableblock, including windows and dentilled brickwork. A number of gaps have been left in the brickwork to enable bats to roost in the building, as prior to the works commencing, an ecological survey identified that a pipestrelle was present. The original garage doors have been given an overhaul and reused.
The woodchip is delivered into a feed-in trough before being augered into the hopper. We designed the hopper with viewing panes and an access point, through which Amber got a good whiff of pine. An automatic auger draws the woodchip into the 199 kW German-made Heizomat boiler.
Previously used at other sites with great success by our installers, Nexus Energy Ltd, the Heizomat boiler is highly efficient and regulated by a lambda sensor. Although the boiler had been operational for 10 days, only a handful of ash had been produced. A 4,000 litre highly insulated thermal store enables the boiler to operate as efficiently as possible. The hot water is pumped a very short distance to the existing boiler room with a heat exchanger connected to the distribution system for the primarily comfort heated West Wing and Rotunda’s conservation heating.
Following Amber’s tour of the plant room, Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director, made the exciting announcement that following on from the success of the pilot, the programme would go ahead with the full roll-out, seeing the Trust invest a further £30 million in renewables across the country. In the East of England, this will include the installation of a lake-source heat pump at Blickling Hall in Norfolk, with planning approval for the scheme expected by the end of this month.
Patrick said “installing renewable technology is these places is a huge challenge“; the project team for Ickworth concurs: we had to overcome challenges of how fuel would be delivered in a very constricted space and, due to it being located in Grade II* registered park and gardens and close to the Grade I listed West Wing, chimney height and appearance was a major factor.
After the official and obligatory ribbon cutting, some Ickworth lemonade and lavender shortbread were gratefully received before Amber explored parts of the property benefiting from the new renewable fuel source.