Fuelling a wood burning revolution

MP Julian Smith, right, is shown round the new wood pellet mill at Melmerby by boss Howard Duffield during last November's official opening of the new �2m plant. (101126M3a)
MP Julian Smith, right, is shown round the new wood pellet mill at Melmerby by boss Howard Duffield during last November's official opening of the new �2m plant. (101126M3a)

THE Ripon area is helping lead a wood fuel revolution.

A local firm that has invested £2m in latest technology to meet the growing demand is to be the venue for the first in a series of events promoting the benefits as wood as a fuel.

With oil and gas prices soaring, forest chiefs are predicting more people in North Yorkshire will branch out and use wood to heat their buildings.

A new survey by the Forestry Commission and Treeworld Ltd has revealed that Yorkshire and the Humber has more than 200 eco-friendly woodfuel boilers installed – the majority in North Yorkshire.

They include units heating hotels like five-star Swinton Park, near Masham, offices, churches, schools and even a new monastery near Helmsley.

Full results of the study will be unveiled on January 26 at the first in a series of events aimed at increasing awareness of woodfuel among existing and potential users.

It is taking place at the new £2m Duffield’s Wood Pellet mill in Melmerby, near Ripon. The first facility of its kind in the county offering a reliable supply of carbon lean fuel to the expanding market, the plant was opened last November by Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith.

Rudie Humphrey, Woodfuel Officer with the Forestry Commission, said: “We will offer a tour of the state-of-the-art plant and also explain how the new Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme – set to be launched soon by the Department of Energy Climate Change – will make using wood as a fuel even more financially compelling.”

The RHI scheme will provide financial support for those who install renewable heating systems as part of a push to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“It’s a real game changer and will signal an even greater take up for woodfuel, even above the impressive growth we have already seen in this region,” said Mr Humphrey.

Unlike oil and gas, well managed woods can produce timber indefinitely. The region has 92,000 hectares (230,000 acres) of woods - 25 per cent of which are managed by the Forestry Commission. But forest chiefs reckon 50 per cent of the remaining woods in private ownership are under-managed or neglected and could produce 150,000 tonnes of additional timber.