How one college slashed its heating bills by 80%
Gurteen Agricultural College has slashed its heating bills by 80pc since converting to renewable energy sources
Ten years ago Michael Pearson made a calculated decision on the potential of renewable energy in a farming environment.
The principal of Gurteen Agricultural College in Tipperary looked at the €100,000 per annum bill for the college heating system and decided there had to be a better and more cost-effective way of keeping the place warm.
“The Government had found grant money from the EU for energy efficiency and we took the decision to do as much as we possibly could at that time because I thought that it made perfect sense when the sums were added up,” he said.
“We had a peat burning boiler which was near the end of its time. We priced what it was going to cost to put an oil burner in and the quote was €100,000 a year for the oil.
“Going the biomass route reduced the annual heating cost to €20,000 — it was a prudent investment.
“When we installed two biomass boilers, we decided to grow our own supply of biomass so we planted 30 hectares of willow, installed a drying plant and we now supply about 80pc of our heating needs from that willow field,” he said.
Harvesting and drying the willow costs €10,000 per annum and this is topped up by bought in timber costing €10,000, meaning the college is now saving €80,000 on its heating bills.
“If that is not sound economics I don’t know what is,” said Mr Pearson. The college has also installed a wind turbine and a few weeks ago a solar system was commissioned and more ideas for energy efficiency are being planned."