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Council enterprise centre to install biomass boiler

4th Jan 2013

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will install a wood-burning boiler at its Hothouse Enterprise Centre as part of a Euro-funded sustainability trial.

The new energy system will cost £500,000 and will use woodchip from a fuel hub recycling trees felled by the council. If successful, the trial could lead to the creation of a self-contained energy network thereby generating income and helping neighbouring businesses by using energy from recycled wood. The total cost of both fuel hub and boiler will be around £646,000 and funding will come from a European programme supported by various research organisations including Staffordshire University.

The council will be able to recoup its investment within four years through reduced heating bills and savings on having to ship wood waste out of the city. The system will be installed at Hothouse Enterprise Centre in Longton which provides offices and workshops on short-term lease for newly created businesses and local entrepreneurs as well as offering conference facilities. However there have been several complaints recently that the venue is too cold leading to a loss of bookings.

"It’s known as the Hothouse enterprise centre but it can’t be called that anymore as they’re losing clients because it’s so cold in there" said Councillor Andy Platt, a council cabinet member for green enterprise. "Just through the normal operations of the city council we cut down more wood than is actually required for this and at the moment it has to be shipped out of the city. This is very important for us as it is enhancing our reputation locally, nationally and within the EU - not only for the green agenda but also the delivery of significant projects."

According to Paul Shotton, the council's deputy leader, the project will be the first step towards becoming independent of the national grid by enabling the council to generate its own power. There are other plans under consideration to generate power from hot springs bubbling up from beneath Chatterley Whitfield and flowing through old mine shafts

"Needless to say, oil, gas and coal reserves are depleting and they’re only going to be around for a relatively short period of time in real terms" Shotton commented.

As well as generating sustainable energy, the council is hoping that the move will attract new business into the city by making the centre more appealing.

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