NG Bailey enhances its renewables offering by setting up a woodchip supply business

As the HVCA president warns m&e companies must acquire the skills to design, install and maintain renewable energy systems and provide clients with informed and authoritative advice and guidance, NG Bailey has enhanced its services to ensure it can do exactly that.

The building services giant, with its 3,500 workforce and £600m turnover, is diversifying to capitalise on the opportunity in renewables and, in addition to its design and engineering arms, has launched a business to supply woodchip for fuelling biomass boilers.

NG Bailey has built up a £150,000-turnover business supplying the woodchip to 14 local firms close to its 2,600-acre estate, which surrounds its West Yorkshire head office, Denton Hall, near Ilkley (of Moor fame). Customers include Bradford University, local authorities and Stanbrook Abbey, and the firm will also supply its own biomass boiler, which is currently being installed at the head office.

James Bush, who is in charge of running the new woodchip venture, says: “The idea for the business stemmed from an opportunity to use the significant quantities of wood generated from the management of our estate to fuel our own biomass boiler, but soon extended to service clients in the local area.

“Currently our client base is mainly in the north of the country, but we are developing relationships with wood fuel bodies and suppliers around the UK and, over time, plan to supply chips nationwide.

A quantity of the timber used by the firm is taken from its own estate; the rest comes in from a network of local estates. It is all certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and is of ‘chipgrade’ quality – usually destined for chipboard manufacture.

To be considered sustainable, the woodchip has to be FSC-certified, and delivery has to fall within a certain radius as fuel emission from haulage is taken into account. It also has to be produced within a set European standard for biomass fuel.

The process of turning the wood into chips involves many processes before it goes through a 32-inch drum chipper, to ensure it is fit for purpose.

From the wood coming in to the chips going out can take up to 18 months, but it isn’t just a ‘one chip fits all’ approach. Different boilers require different types of chips, so a strict quality control process is in place to make sure each client gets what they require.

The use of biomass fuel as a low-carbon, renewable energy source is becoming increasingly popular as government legislation to make businesses control the amount of fuel they use becomes a reality.

For example, the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), the ‘cap and trade’ scheme, which comes into force in 2010, will reward or punish companies based on their energy consumption and carbon output – giving m&e companies a distinct opportunity to help clients reduce their carbon footprint.

This initiative is one of NG Bailey’s current renewables projects that focuses on growing the woodchip business, but the company has also been assisting clients in designing their own renewables schemes. It has been involved in a number of biomass boiler installations on large new-build projects, and in retrofitting boilers. Over the coming months its maintenance division will be expanding its work in this area, as demand from clients increases.

NG Bailey also knows first hand about the installation of other types of renewable energy measures for clients, and through the investment it made at its new Scottish head office, Solais House. This included ground-source heating, where water is abstracted from a borehole through a heat pump.

Using a refrigeration cycle in reverse, hot water is generated and then distributed throughout the building, feeding underfloor heating and radiators.

Making use of the ambient temperatures underground reduces the need for additional energy. The system also provides free cooling to the chilled beams in the meeting rooms located around the building.

Solar heating contribution

NG Bailey installed solar collectors on the roof at Solais House to heat the water, which is circulated to a storage cylinder located in the roof plant room. Domestic hot water is then pumped around the building.

Solar thermal heating provides a good proportion of the domestic hot water all year round. The technology is also in use at Denton Hall and at NG Bailey’s Bradford-based prefabrication facility.

Photovoltaic glass is also in use at the EPC grade A building. It contains integrated solar cells that convert solar energy into electricity. The cells are embedded between two glass panes and generate a direct electrical current, meaning that power can be produced from the glazed areas of the building’s surface.

The company has also installed measures such as these for clients, an area of the business it intends to grow over the coming year. And with the UK committed to producing 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 – the equivalent of around 35% of its electricity – what better time to start.

Originally published in EMC September 2009 as "Wood you believe it?"

Biomass boiler chips in

For NG Bailey to best advise clients on biomass fuel and installing the associated boiler, the company had to first understand the challenging process, so it embarked on a project – once the woodchip venture was up and running – to install its own biomass boiler at its Denton Hall headquarters near Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

Initially the company looked at the cost justification of the installation and considered the payback of making the change. In fact it has calculated a payback within less than five years. But installing such a system comes with its challenges, not least when you want to use it for a grade 1-listed, historic building.

Once the company’s engineering teams had assessed the feasibility of the installation, NG Bailey had to seek planning permission, in two parts. The first was under normal planning consent and the second was due to listed-building status.

Peter Willans, NG Bailey’s property manager, comments: “The installation of a biomass boiler certainly comes with its challenges. For us, we had to overcome strict listed-building and planning restrictions and in addition faced sensitive ecological issues due to the location of a bat roost where the boiler had to be located.”

But the company overcame these challenges and has secured a Defra Bio-energy Capital Grant to help pay for the installation of the boiler, which will be completed in October.