West Dean Estate - the Environment Centre (tEC)

Woodchip Fired Boiler and District Heating System

West Dean College is a centre for the study of traditional arts, crafts and music. The college is based in a large country house set in the 6,000 acre West Dean Estate. It lies six miles north of Chichester within the new South Downs National Park. The house and its hot water supply were previously heated by converted coke-fired boilers running on oil (at less than 45% efficiency) and electric storage heaters (typically inefficient).

Technologies Employed
The old, inefficient boilers were replaced by a new Woodchip Fired Boiler and District Heating System. The woodchip fired boiler was chosen because of the health issues, erratic price and supply, and pollution levels associated with fossil fuels. Woodchip is a low carbon, renewable fuel which is widely available within the local area.

System features:
  • Can burn wood chips of up to 60% moisture content. Allows for a degree of variability between different storage conditions, weather and storage period lengths.
  • Wood chips need to be about one inch in diameter.
  • Approximately 1,200 tonnes of chips are used by the heating system per year.
  • There is an underground heat network which also supplies four houses, the West Dean Gardens visitor centre, the village church and a swimming pool. This network was expanded in 2004 to heat an additional 900m2 of teaching and exhibition space for the College.
  • The annual total heat load is roughly 2.5 million kilowatt hours.

Awards and Achievements
The West Dean system has been operating for nearly 30 years, demonstrating the effective use of a biomass system, integrating resource management with consumption of resources and benefits to the local economy. The medium to long-term security of fuel price and supply is making wood a viable option for similar rural communities, farms, businesses and other organisations facing major choices about their heating system.

Links / Contact Details
Location: West Dean, West Sussex, PO18 0QZ (Grid ref: SU862126) Owner / Developer: The Edward James Foundation Page last updated: 23 August 2010
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