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Specialist renewable energy company warms up student accommodation

A Shropshire company has brought renewable energy to the students of Glyndŵr University in Wrexham, North East Wales with the installation of a revolutionary wood pellet boiler that will save hundreds of pounds a year in heating bills.

Having stood empty for 18 months, The Walnut Tree, a Wrexham town centre pub, was acquired in April 2011 by Peter Byron, Director of UniStay, a specialist provider of university accommodation who saw the potential for the disused building to be converted.

Originally comprising 14 rooms, Peter decided to extend the building in 2012 to provide a further six rooms and in doing so reviewed the existing heating provision which was via mains gas. Already at a monthly cost of £800, the extension of the building and its associated requirements for additional power meant that mains gas was going to become too costly and so it was decided to look at alternatives.

Having conducted extensive internet research, Peter decided to look in more detail at the ÖkoFEN boilers which could be installed by 7 Energy. Convinced of their high quality and reliability, as well as being reassured by the relative proximity of 7 Energy to his own business interests in North Wales, Peter engaged 7 Energy to work on the project.

Whilst the installation posed a number of challenges – not least of all a very tight deadline of just three weeks before students moved in at the start of the new term, and the physical challenges of getting the boiler in to the building whilst construction was still on-going – the project was completed on time.

Now that it is in situ, the 56 kW ÖkoFEN Pellematic wood pellet boiler is eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive - a financial support programme for renewable heat that provides payments to the non-domestic sector. It is anticipated that with these payments, the whole system will pay for itself in six to seven years.

Commenting on the project, Managing Director of 7 Energy, Martin Dowley, said: “This was a challenging project given the extremely tight timeframe we had to work in. This was compounded by the fact that the building was not initially suited to the installation of the boiler without some additional construction work being needed. However, the successful completion of a project like this and the benefits it is already reaping for the owners make it all worthwhile. It is always encouraging seeing new sectors, in this case student accommodation, embrace the benefits of efficient, low carbon, renewable energy sources.”

Paul Byron added: “The Walnut Tree is ideally located in Wrexham town centre, so close to the university, that its conversion to student accommodation seemed clear to me. I was keen, however, with so many en suite bathrooms and the on-set of the colder winter months, to look at ways of reducing the energy bills. Having already done some research in to alternative heating sources, I decided to look in more detail at how such an option might work at The Walnut Tree.

He continues: “7 Energy was great to deal with and rose to the challenges of this project with enthusiasm. Whilst the wood pellet boiler that we chose to go with isn’t the cheapest option, we see this as a long term investment and already it is reaping financial savings for us vis-à-vis the old mains gas system. Once the RHI payments start to come through, we’ll move closer to the boiler paying for itself.”

Such is Peter’s support of the ÖkoFEN boiler that he’s’ recently had one installed in the new house he’s building.

Posted 25.09.2013