A community co-operative based in South Herefordshire installs wood chip boilers to supply heat at a reduced price to hard-to-heat buildings.
The project originated with the Fownhope Carbon Reduction Action Group – local people who were looking at their own carbon footprints and keen to explore wider opportunities. With a significant woodland resource in the area, and an aim to help bring local neglected woodland back into management, the installation of woodfuel boilers was considered an appropriate project for the group.
The co-op was set up with a founding board of five volunteers with ongoing financial and practical support from Sharenergy Co-operative. The founding directors are all local and mostly working people with a good range of skills in the farming sector, woodland management, business development and project management.
Woolhope Woodheat has raised over £300,000 from 150 members in a community share offer and have installed their first woodchip boiler in Canon Frome Court, a large housing association property.
It took around three years from the initial concept to share offer with the install and registration for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) taking nearly another year.
The wood chip is currently sourced from a local woodfuel supplier who sources the wood from local woodlands. In the longer term Woolhope Woodheat hopes to produce their own woodfuel.
- biomass can provide a real low-carbon heating solution for some hard to treat buildings
- joined up thinking across a project leads to benefits for woodlands, people and the environment
- it can be hard to find suitable buildings where operators are ready to consider an unusual heating solution
- share offers for relatively unknown technologies can be hard work
- needs a lot of both dedicated volunteer and paid time to pull off
- you need a robust business plan and a sustained marketing effort to progress a project successfully
- risky for members in comparison to other renewables so you need to give members a comparatively high rate of return – especially as Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax relief is not available