Celebrating Climate Week 3 – 9 March 2014

News from the Exmoor National Park Authority

Exmoor National Park Authority has, in recent years, looked closely at how it could become a “carbon neutral National Park”.

Evidence has shown that Exmoor’s woodlands and hedges are a huge and possibly undervalued source of woodfuel. In recent years a number of land owners have started to look at alternatives to oil, including wind power, photovoltaics and wood fuel. The National Park Authority is particularly interested in woodfuel because it encourages the management of traditional hedgebanks and broadleaved woodlands.

One such example of this renewed interest in woodfuel is the Edwards family at Westermill Farm, near Exford in the heart of the National Park (www.westermill.com) who were supported through the Carbon Neutral Exmoor project. Westermill is a 500 acre sheep and beef farm with holiday accommodation and a campsite.  The heating requirement for the site comprised a traditional Exmoor farmhouse, six holiday cottages and a wash house/shower block for the campsite. With the shower block using LPG, the farmhouse using oil and the holiday cottages using mains electricity the heating costs were high. A district heating scheme serving all these components has now been installed powered by a large 150 kWp Froling tx150 woodchip boiler.

The farm had already been planting shelter belts with trees for the last 50 or so years. These trees are now maturing allowing for approximately 200 trees to be felled and chipped a year with harvesting and planting continuing at the same rate annually. The farm also invested in planting 18,500 new trees with support from the National Park Authority and Forestry Commission 7 years ago and now plans to introduce a coppice programme to provide further woodfuel.

Oliver Edwards commented “It’s really a win-win situation. We gain heat in a sustainable and cost effective way whilst benefiting the farm and wildlife too. The project also benefits the local economy – all the contractors and suppliers we used were local to the area. We’re now looking to secure funding for our own chipper to maximise cost savings, fuel security and lower transport emissions.”

Given the high and relatively consistent demand on the site, wood fuel is already proving to be a good solution. Even with initial high costs, the return on investment looks promising once the Renewable Heat Incentive is secured, coupled with fuels costs estimated to be reduced by over 50%. It is estimated the installation will save around 125 tonnes of CO2 per annum.