The District Heating System

Since June 2015 the Springbok Co-op has operated a wood chip biomass district heating system at the Springbok Estate of Care Ashore, a charity for former seafarers, near Alfold, south-west Surrey.  

  • We provide a low carbon heat solution by using local and sustainably sourced wood.  This brings unmanaged woodland into management in a cost effective way; utilises poor quality waste wood; supports the local forestry industry
  • The system supplies a residential complex plus a further 22 bungalows, flats and maisonettes in the grounds
  • Heat is sold to the main heat customer – Care Ashore – and also to the individual residents (this requires a billing infrastructure); 
  • Initial price for heat in June 2015 was slightly less than price of oil at the time but we have maintained the price at 2015 levels – largely thanks to switching to self-supply of wood chip since 2020 – BSL registered as a producer-trader
  • We also receive the Renewable Heat Incentive at 2015 rates
  • Surplus after payment of operating costs, interest to shareholders and gradual repayment of capital goes back to Care Ashore 
  • The hamlet is off the gas grid and had very old and inefficient individual oil boilers which needed replacing.  
  • We calculate the biomass system saves approx 220 tonnes of carbon a year
  • Project took over two and a half years from concept to commissioning
  • 7 month build November 2014 – June 2015
  • 2 share offers raised £425,000
  • 120 co-op members
  • 5 volunteer directors run the co-op – myself, my husband Mike (chair), Alison Austin, Tom Parker and  Martin Crane who is a district heating expert and who is currently overseeing work to improve efficiency of the system

Unlike solar, wind or hydro…

  • the requirement to supply the fuel – wood chip
  • the need to meter, monitor heat output and operate billing and credit control 
  • we have the responsibility of keeping our customers supplied with heat and hot water for 20 years from 2015 – we can’t just switch the system over to the grid!

System layout – there is a fraction under 500m of district heating pipe

2 x 199kW boilers fuelled by locally sourced wood chip

2 x oil back up boilers – essential back up during maintenance, breakdowns and in periods of extreme cold

Since December 2020  we have produced 100% of our own wood chip