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Better with wood

16 May 2014

I DO not really understand how you weigh a gas such as carbon dioxide, but I take their word for it that St Alban's, in the village of Earsdon, near Whitley Bay, in Newcastle diocese, is saving an enormous 22 tonnes of carbon a year since installing a biomass boiler fuelled by wood pellets.

The boiler heats both the Victorian church and the nearby Eccles Hall (left), both Grade II buildings. In fact, the new boiler-house - a rather incongruous wooden building - is attached to Eccles Hall, which is used for numerous church and community events. Heat meters have been installed in the church so that they can monitor how much energy is being saved.

"Knowing how much heat we are producing", the Vicar, the Revd Andrew France, says, "has enabled us to calculate by how much we have reduced our carbon emissions through switching from natural gas to biomass. . . We are very proud of our achievement, which has come after a great deal of hard work by many people."

To help repay the loan taken out for the work, St Alban's has opened a charity shop in the Beacon Centre, North Shields, run by volunteers.

Of course, burning wood pellets also releases carbon dioxide, a member of Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) tells me, "but scientific analysis always treats the carbon dioxide from recently grown vegetation separately from the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas".

It certainly creates very little ash - which can be useful as a fertiliser; and, if the wood pellets are from a local source, it minimises the carbon cost of transport.

St Alban's, with the help of funding from the DECC, has produced a ten-minute film about the way that the biomass boiler is working for them, together with details of other carbon-saving energy schemes. It can be seen on their website, www.stalbansearsdon.co.uk, by clicking on their Earsdon renewable-energy link.

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