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Woodchip heater great success story
Wednesday 4 August 2010, 1:51PM
By Gisborne District Council


A wood chip boiler installed at the Olympic Pool in June has started to pay dividends.

The old gas heater was 30 years old and cost $150,000 per year in energy costs. From 1 July the new emissions trading scheme on all fossil burning fuels would have added $7000 to that cost this year.

It has been replaced by an Austrian made wood boiler that is fuelled by up to 12 cubic metres of wood chips every winter day. The wood chips are supplied by local firewood contractor Kevin McBreen who sources locally-grown timber off cuts that might otherwise go to waste. It is estimated that fuel costs will be $110,000 each year, saving ratepayers $47,000. Also that money will stay in the local economy instead of going out of the district to a large national gas company.

The last six weeks have been spent installing and testing the new wood chip boiler which is only one of three in the country. The 400 kilowatt boiler is a carbon neutral heating option that after two weeks of full operation is exceeding all the Olympic Pool Manager, Hendrik Geyer’s, expectations. “The boiler burns wood in a highly efficient way. Unlike a normal woodburner there is very little ash or smoke because it burns to 92% efficiency. It burns nearly as cleanly as natural gas; there is no air pollution and the only noticeable emission is the occasional puff of water vapour.”

After several years of researching pool heating options Gisborne District Council choose the wood boiler. The contract was awarded Spark Energy Ltd the New Zealand supplier of KOB wood boilers which have been made and perfected for 25 years. On 12 August a technician from Austria will be in Gisborne to look over the installation and talk with staff about its operation. Spark Energy has contracted Mr Mc Breen to supply the wood chips for the next five years.

The total cost of the wood boiler was $540,000 including installation. Because the boiler makes the pools nearly carbon neutral, a $150,000 grant and a $319,000 interest-free loan from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) was received, along with $61,000 in loan funding from Council.

Andy Marchant, an independent engineering consultant commissioned by EECA to assess the new boiler and installation was very impressed when he visited the pool. “Council has made a wise investment. It has future-proofed the operation of the pool complex. The technology is sound; in fact for this type of operation the chosen boiler is one of the best on the market. I was impressed with the overall design and the quality of the installation and how the pool team has embraced the new technology. They are continuing to optimise the performance of the system and to achieve maximum efficiency."

“The installation and testing has gone really well; there have been very few glitches,” says Mr Geyer. “We are still ironing out the fuel delivery process but some testing and refining was to be expected. On the whole installation has surpassed my best case scenario. It feels good to be delivering a sustainable solution to heating the pool complex that keeps money in the district and reduces our reliance on ratepayers. I invite all large heat users to come and have a look at what we have achieved. A system like this could benefit schools, resthomes, sawmills and hospitals.” INDEX