Over 540 households helped out of fuel poverty with a Pyrotec biomass community heating system

Project overview

A housing co-operative in one of Scotland’s poorest regions has invested in a district heating network to cut resident fuel bills by 20%.

West Whitlawburn Housing Co-operative (WWHC) in Cambuslang has implemented a modern, affordable heating system in partnership with npower, using products from Viessmann, which caters for 432 flats in six tower blocks, 111 low rise flats and 14 tenement closes. A Viessmann 740 kW Pyrotec biomass boiler, backed up by three 1300 kW Vitoplex low temperature gas boilers, is now on course to save 48,600 tonnes of CO² over its 30 year lifetime.

A cheaper and sustainable heating source

Previously using electric storage heaters exclusively, the residents of West Whitlawburn were suffering from high heating and hot water bills across the estate. Situated in the bottom five per cent band of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, the West Whitlawburn HousingCo-operative faced a challenge in implementing a cheaper, more sustainable fuel source.

Initially, the WWHC invested £22.4 million to improve the energy efficiency of these buildings, work which included cladding, insulation, new windows and re-roofing as well as enclosing exposed balconies in six high-rise blocks.

The project, part funded through the Warm Homes Fund, involved the construction of a new energy centre, which contains a 740 kW Pyrotec biomass boiler and 50,000 litre thermal store. The system burns woodchips or pellets at up to 92% efficiency and is fed via an automated charging screw from an underground store beneath the energy centre. The Pyrotec’s three pass heat exchanger allows for maximum heat transfer and greater comfort for West Whitlawburn residents.

Due to the combustion manager within the boiler, a greater variety of wood fuel can be used to heat the system. This ranges from dry (W10) to moist (W50). The energy from the fuel is transferred from the thermal store to each property via a network of insulated underground pipes. This heats each unit’s individual heating system, comprising of a heat exchanger, radiators and hot water tank.

Integrating biomass and low temperature gas boilers

The West Whitlawburn scheme also uses three 1300 kW Vitoplex low temperature gas boilers to provide back-up heat, providing a highly resilient system. With wide water galleries and large water content, the Vitoplex boilers require no minimum flow rate, and cater for both high and low energy demands from the estate.

Results

This large scheme, completed in December 2014, is expected to bring hundreds of residents out of fuel poverty, with an expected saving of 20% on heating and hot water bills compared to the previous system. It is expected that the community project with also save 1600 tonnes of CO² each year.

Stephanie Marshall, Deputy Director of West Whitlawburn Housing Co-operative said, "the new biomass district heating scheme is a true community energy project. We are delighted to be making a real difference to the West Whitlawburn Community."

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