Schools and businesses in the Top of the South are increasingly making the environmentally-conscious choice to transition from fossil fuels to using sustainable, clean wood energy. In doing so, they are reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, improving our air quality and saving money.
Golden Bay High School is proud that their ethos of sustainability and environmental awareness drove their decision to operate a carbon neutral boiler system to heat their school and pool. The school believes that modelling care for the environment reflects what is expected from their community and provides a context for learning that will shape the values of their students into the future.
A commitment to environmental care is exemplified in Nayland College’s choice to invest in a carbon neutral, renewable energy resource for their fuel requirements. Principal, Daniel Wilson, highlighted that a concern to look after their local environment was an important priority, but so was setting an example to their students of the importance of environmental sustainability.
In general, the education sector could play an important role in conversion to wood fuel, given the Ministry of Education’s 2017 policy update which states “Boilers can be fuelled with a variety of fuels, including natural gas and biomass such as wood chip or wood pellet. Carbon emissions from fossil fuel use are an important issue and high greenhouse emission fuels such as coal, LPG and fuel oil boilers should be avoided.”
Converting boilers running on high-emitting fuel, such as coal, to carbon neutral wood energy, such as wood pellets, takes a relatively-small capital investment. It usually requires physical changes to fuel delivery systems. The resultant savings can prove great, however, given the current volatility of coal and diesel prices.
The recent Productivity Commission Low-Emissions Economy report noted that:
“Wood Energy is the most cost-effective technology over the lifecycle of the boiler in comparison to other fuels, with the exception of lignite coal. ...the quality of lignite has significantly declined over the past few years to the point of causing coal boilers to pre-mature fail. In addition various consumers of coal have recently noted the increase in coal price… Biomass boilers have significantly lower maintenance cost and on-going servicing requirements”.
Other lifecycle benefits include lower operating costs associated with ash removal, compared with coal, given pellets produce minimal ash.
In choosing wood energy, local schools are supporting local industry and enabling environmental clean-up. In producing its wood fuel, Azwood Energy utilises residues from sustainable forestry, removing slash and waste wood from forestry skid sites. This diminishes fuel for forest fires, reduces the incidence and impact of erosion events during extreme weather, protects waterways from residues and erosion and assists with plant regrowth.
Azwood Energy also repurposes waste products from the wood manufacturing process reducing landfill, preventing leachate in waterways and creating unique technical media for growing trees and crops, land enhancement, stormwater management and pollution control in a sustainable, closed loop circular economy.
The Wood Energy South project provides examples of lifecycle benefits that accrue from converting to wood energy. This project aimed to lower energy-related carbon emissions in Southland, improve air quality and demonstrate the cost and lifecycle benefits of wood-fuelled boilers using local wood resources. Running for three years, its achievements included assisting 12 heat plant owners to transition to wood fuel, (reducing lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by a projected 200,000 tonnes) and implementing the expansion of the local wood fuel supply market.
Venture Southland’s Group Manager Business and Strategic Projects, Steve Canny said the conversion decisions were economically prudent.
“Businesses that have invested in waste biomass boilers have insulated themselves again the rising cost of carbon, reduced the cost of production and have become globally competitive in a Southland setting.”
Azwood Energy, New Zealand’s leading wood fuel supplier, have registered wood energy advisors who will complete a free basic feasibility study to assess if fuel switching is an option for your school or business.