Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

November 14, 2007

Community owned wood chipping plant

Although we have an abundance of timber, Scotland lags behind much of Europe in wood fuel usage for heating. A community charity called ‘Our Power’ in Argyll and Bute is showing the way with a new wood chipping plant opened at Cairndow

Argyllshire Advertiser

A NEW wood-chipping plant will open next week at Cairndow which will provide a shining example of environmental enterprise in Argyll and Bute.

Jim Mather, MSP for Argyll and Minister for Energy, will open Our Power’s new plant on Friday, November 2.

The wood chips produced by the plant will fuel the biomass boiler – previously fuelled by oil – which heats water for Lakeland Smolts.

It is hoped this development could hold lessons for other parts of Scotland. Though 40 per cent of energy consumed in Scotland is for heat we are still behind much of Europe in wood fuel usage. Many European countries are way ahead in boiler manufacture, standards of delivery, storage systems, and specifications on the quality of chips and firewood. Our Power is owned by the community charity Here We Are (HWA), and profits from the chips will provide revenue for it.

The project was helped with a grant from the Scottish Biomass Support Scheme (SBSS), which provided 50 per cent of capital expenditure for biomass equipment. HWA then raised £22.5k from its own supporters with additional funds (set up costs, the purchase of a tractor etc) totalling £75k sourced from the banking sector.

Two and a half years ago, HWA raised funds to research and put on an exhibition on the history of the power that has been generated within the Cairndow locality. Following this, a feasibility study was carried out exploring sources of renewable energy with sun and wind proving insufficient. There were two potential hydro schemes, impractical for different reasons, with the remaining one the biomass plant. Norwegian-owned local salmon hatchery Lakeland saw the attraction of reducing its oil consumption and a guaranteed energy price for a five-year period.

The timber will come from within a 30-mile radius after negotiating a five-year deal with the Forestry Commission’s assistance. The next step is to find more customers in the area.

A spokesperson for HWA said: ‘Long distance transportation of timber for chips is not sustainable. And if the SBSS grant scheme is intended to reduce carbon emissions and help regenerate fragile rural areas of the Highlands the current support to the large-scale coal-fired power stations of the South and East should be discouraged, or the timber/chips price increases will threaten the future viability of the small rural initiatives.’

HWA has received support and encouragement from Argyll, Lomond and the Islands Energy Agency (ALIenergy); Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company (HICEC); Communities Scotland Seedcorn Fund and the Development Trust Association’s Business Accelerator scheme also helped with feasibility, research and development.