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Biomass gives growers an edge

Growers continue to take advantage of Renewable Heat Incentive despite high cost of equipment.

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Biomass boiler installations in ornamental production are continuing
to boom, with growers is continuing to see a boom, with growers putting
in systems whenever they can afford them, leading to increases in
poinsettia and hydrangea growing.

However, Fresh Acres managing director Richard Lovejoy said nursery
owners need better advice after being quoted double the price by one
supplier for a system he later installed for £60,000.

His boiler went live in January and Earley Ornamentals had a system
installed soon afterwards. Hills Brothers, Cobbins Nursery and Pentland
Plants have systems going in this year too.

“If I had a spare £100,000 I would put another one in,” said Lovejoy.
“The renewable heat initiative pays it off in three years. This is the
biggest industry trend at the moment.” But he added that equipment is
“ludicrously expensive” for what are “basically coal boilers”.

Nurseries could use their boilers more as marketing tools to sell
into supermarkets and a Red Tractor-style marque for those who use wood
boilers would be useful, Lovejoy suggested. Wood burners are helping
drive the hydrangea market, which is set to be big in 2015, and give a
“competitive advantage” over the Dutch, he added.

Fresh Acres uses virgin woodchip from forest waste, though Cobbins is
planning to burn waste wood. Pentland Plants owner David Spray said:
“It makes sense. You can’t afford not to.

“More people are growing poinsettia because of it. We fell our own
timber so it’s one-third the cost (of conventional heating). If you
bring in chip, it’s half-price fuel and a stable price.” But he added:
“There will be a time when the Government says enough and the tier will
drop.”

Spray agreed with Lovejoy that “people are paying over the odds for
systems”. His son Richard Spray’s firm Pentland Biomass now has 15 staff
and supplied Dunbar Garden Centre this year.

Hills Brothers’ Greg Hill said his system goes in this December. “There’s a decent incentive to put one in.”

Read More: Wood Pellet Boilers

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