On Tuesday evening, we held an IEMA sponsored talk on the campus regarding our growing of SRC willow for biomass heat energy. After walking through the willow fields themselves, the hosts and attendees discussed the practical realities of not only using biomass for heat energy but also of using land space for biomass growing.
The environmental case for replacing fossil fuel heating systems is clear cut. However, the offset of combustion emissions stemming from biomass burning only occurs if the biomass is sustainably grown. A significant part of the evening was dedicated to discussing the justification for growing an area of willow.
The second part of the evening saw us discuss the use of biomass from the perspective of an organisation with heating and hot water requirements. The true values of using renewable energy for the College’s facilities lie not just in offsetting the environmental impact of the campus, but also in providing an on-site learning resource for staff, students and the local community. Whilst a large portion of our energy demand is now met with biomass, we still have to prioritise efficiency in our systems and teaching users to not be wasteful. Environmentally and financially, the cheapest heating energy will always be the energy we never have to use.