Biomass turns bad for residents of Irish eco village

13th Aug 2012


Residents living in Northern Ireland’s only eco village are facing huge bills for their biomass central heating system after their dream of sustainable living has turned into a nightmare.

Biomass boilers are seen to be a cost effective renewable heating solution but unfortunately for home owners in an eco village in Lisburn Northern Ireland their biomass central heating system has proven to be dearer than gas – in fact three times more expensive.

The Woodbrook housing development was touted as Northern Ireland’s first major eco village. Utilising a biomass system fuelled by wood chips residents face having to fork out hundreds of thousands of pounds thanks to a housing shortfall which has resulted in a heating system that is no longer economical to run.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, just under 200 of a proposed 400 homes have been built following the collapse of building firm the Carvill Group. And to make matters worse, thanks to the current heating arrangement in place the properties have been rendered unsaleable. Residents are looking in to the possibility of switching from biomass to gas and have approached Phoenix Natural Gas to explore the possibility. However replacing a biomass system with a gas equivalent could be tricky, not least because it has never been attempted before in Northern Ireland.

To remove the existing heating system and install a more reliable and cost-effective one, individual households will have to find at least £1,000 to foot the bill and not surprisingly residents are furious at the prospect of having to fund the cost themselves.

“The problem is that the biomass was supposed to serve 400 houses but only 196 were built, so the site has become unprofitable,” said local resident Michael Stewart.

“This is not what we signed up for. Biomass was supposed to be 40% cheaper than gas, not now it’s over three times dearer,” added fellow home owner Darren Trowlen.

Alastair Pollock, business development director at Phoenix Natural Gas confirmed they have been discussing the problem with Woodbrook residents, and added: “Unfortunately, in this case the developer has chosen a district heating system fuelled by biomass which, according to an independent report, has turned out not to be fit for purpose.”