The Art of Wood Chip

I’ve decided to recommence writing a blog about my experiences with the woodland and the biomass after a gap of 7 years. Doing a total recap of what has happened since 2016 would be tedious for both author and reader, but the big development in this period was the construction of a barn dedicated to the storage of wood chip paid for by the co-operative and built a few hundred yards from the boiler house site.  This means that since about 2020/21 we have stopped buying in wood chip from local suppliers and produced our own chip mainly from the woods on Rosemary Lane but with some roundwood (i.e. whole trunks) and a bit of brash (finer tops and branches, pretty junk stuff) bought in from other local woodland owners.

Producing wood chip is not an exact science.  There is the good chip, the mediocre chip and the bad chip.  Chip is bad when it is too damp or too long and stringy or too fat and chunky or even a combination of all three.  The good will pass through both our boilers without a stutter. The mediocre causes the more sensitive “bungalow boiler” a few problems and the occasional shutdown and the bad results in a complete shutdown of both boilers.  If a biomass boiler breaks down the oil boilers kick in. This maintains the supply of heat and hot water but at a significant cost (at today’s prices) and we lose the income from the Renewable Heat Incentive. 

We currently (winter 2023) have some bad chip of the too stringy and chunky variety, in fact we have a barnful of the stuff because Joe’s new chipper didn’t cope well with a large load of pine and has produced some long piece which the boiler augers can’t cope with and they jam.   There was a lot of this in the run up to Christmas.  Steps are now being taken to sort out the chip quality which will result in an overall improvement in the quality of our chip in the future, but that is for another post.