Funding to turn up the heat at Gremista

 North Fish's new biomass plant makeswood pellets and supplies heat from burning wood to the Lerwick District Heating Scheme. With some of the ready-to-burn pellets are North Fish Shetland director Angus Grains (centre) with HIE's David Priest and Rachel Hunter. Photo: John Coutts
North Fish’s new biomass plant makeswood pellets and supplies heat from burning wood to the Lerwick District Heating Scheme.
With some of the ready-to-burn pellets are North Fish Shetland director Angus Grains (centre) with HIE’s David Priest and Rachel Hunter. Photo: John Coutts

A commercial heating scheme, which it is claimed will result in lower costs for community facilities across Shetland, has received a funding boost from Scottish government agencies.

A new wood pelleting plant at Gremista, run by local business North Fish (Shetland) Ltd is supplying energy to the Lerwick District Heating Scheme, reducing the system’s need to use more expensive heating oil.

Later this year, the plant is to go greener – being powered by a new wind turbine project at North Hoo Field, the hill at the rear of Gremista Industrial Estate.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise said this will result in more residents and businesses being able to use hot water, heated using renewable sources for heating, at a significantly lower cost.

Parts of the project are being supported through the Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF) and Highalnds and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The Lerwick District Heating Scheme (LDHS) is operated by Shetland Heat Energy and Power (SHEAP), part of Shetland Charitable Trust. It has a series of pipes that run through Lerwick and provide hot water for heating to houses and businesses.

It heats the hot water by burning waste from the Shetland Islands Council incinerator (energy recovery plant) in Gremista, heating two thermal stores.

HIE said the energy recovery plant cannot always supply enough hot water to LDHS to meet demand, particularly in the winter. When this happens the thermal stores are heated using more expensive heating oil.

The new wood burning, drying and pelletising plant at Gremista, was developed by North Fish.

The 500kw wind turbine project which will power it, is being set up at North Hoo Field, with the support of a £700,000 loan through REIF.

Andrew Smith, head of REIF, said: “North Fish’s innovative project is an excellent example of how renewable energy can be used to support a community heating project, and at the same time create jobs and economic opportunities.

“A key part of REIF’s remit is supporting initiatives such as this – and this is exactly the type of project we need to see more of in Scotland as we work towards becoming a truly low carbon economy.”

HIE has supported North Fish with the development of the plant with a £39,039 grant towards feasibility studies and £40,000 towards the purchase of a wood pelleting machine.

David Priest, development manager at HIE, said: “This is an ambitious and far-sighted scheme that enables a genuine low carbon cheaper heating alternative for large users of energy.

“The project has been undertaken at significant risk and meant North Fish having to completely restructure their operations, but it now will enable the business to grow and provide low-carbon solutions to other sites in Shetland and beyond.”

The Gremista plant also produces wood pellets, which are used as a sustainable fuel, supplying community facilities at four sites in Shetland – Brae, Aith, Yell and soon Whalsay.

Biomass boilers are water heating boilers that burn wood pellets rather than oil. It is also considered low carbon as wood is not a fossil fuel.

Angus Grains from North Fish said: “North Fish are delighted to be able to secure funding from both HIE and REIF.

“North Fish have invested over £1million in this phase of the project, which is now nearing completion with the turbine being built in the next couple of months.

“The turbine will provide all our manufacturing power requirements and is designed to be able to export any surplus energy into the local grid or provide hot water for export into the Lerwick district heating network.

“Our customers are currently benefitting from the lowest heating cost available, and have also minimised their carbon emissions.

“We are currently planning expansion with new heat networks at sites in Whalsay and Scalloway. On completion of this next phase, we will have 2MW of renewable heat capacity in operation, with the expectation of displacing almost one million litres of oil annually.”

The purchase of a wood pelleting machine will also result in North Fish creating a full time, skilled job and allow heating services to be provided to other community facilities across Shetland.


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • May 13th, 2014 20:23

    Isn’t wood organic so, if you burn it, carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere instead of remaining stored in the tree from which the wood pellets were made?

    And you will lose the carbon dioxide processing capacity of a full-grown tree which to cut it down, transport it to the destination where it will be converted to pellets and plant a new sapling to replace it, will create yet more carbon dioxide emissions.

    Still, if the Scottish government says it’s ‘low carbon’, it must be, eh?

    “Napoleon is always right.”

    Where does the raw wood come from, Scotland, I hope?

  • Rosa Steppanova

    • May 14th, 2014 13:18

    I believe John Tulloch is barking up the wrong tree here. Wood pellets are made from forestry waste, i.e. timber that can’t be used in construction or furniture making and recycled wood such as pallets and packing crates.
    They are also made from wood grown as short rotation coppice.
    This involves fast-growing trees such as willow and poplar. A third of the planting is cut to the ground (coppiced) every third year in rotation. The trees regrow rapidly, continue to absorb carbon from the atmosphere and can be harvested indefinitely, as the coppicing process re-juvinates them. Coppicing is an ancient practice and not a single tree is killed in the process. Does that put your mind at ease?
    As to transport carbon emissions from imported wood, trials for short rotation coppice, involving fast-growing Alaskan species, are underway in Shetland.

    • John Tulloch

      • May 14th, 2014 15:57

      Thanks, Rosa.

      First, as you may be aware, I can’t get overly excited about reducing carbon dioxide emissions, except when they are accompanied by fertiliser from the mouths of politicians’.

      Second, I recall supporting a suggestion by James MacKenzie that wood for biomass could be grown in Shetland so I’m pleased to hear of some experimental activity related to that.

      If it’s all wood waste which is to be used by North Fish and it doesn’t require subsidy, that’s fine, however, I tend to be suspicious about biomass ventures when we aren’t told where the wood is coming from – and we weren’t told.

      Do you know where this particular wood is coming from?

      Vast quantities of wood/biomass are already being imported from the United States to supply UK power stations so, presumably, there isn’t enough wood – waste or otherwise – in the UK?

      Furthermore, biomass district heating schemes are proliferating in Scotland, presumably, using locally-sourced wood and that’s fine by me. Will there be enough waste wood for everyone, indefinitely?

      The logs we burn in stoves and fires aren’t waste wood and biomass boilers should be more efficient heating systems than either of those so why wouldn’t we use trees?

      I realise the Daily Mail isn’t the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ however they have an interesting piece on the source of biomass wood for Drax Power Station:

      “Each year, says Drax’s head of environment, Nigel Burdett, Drax buys more than a million metric tons of pellets from US firm Enviva, around two thirds of its total output. Most of them come not from fast-growing pine, but mixed, deciduous hardwood.

      Drax and Enviva insist this practice is ‘sustainable’. But though it is entirely driven by the desire to curb greenhouse gas emissions, a broad alliance of US and international environmentalists argue it is increasing, not reducing them.

      In fact, Burdett admits, Drax’s wood-fuelled furnaces actually produce three per cent more carbon dioxide (CO2) than coal – and well over twice as much as gas: 870g per megawatt hour (MW/hr) is belched out by wood, compared to just 400g for gas.

      Then there’s the extra CO2 produced by manufacturing the pellets and transporting them 3,800 miles. According to Burdett, when all that is taken into account, using biomass for generating power produces 20 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

      And meanwhile, say the environmentalists, the forest’s precious wildlife habitat is being placed in jeopardy.”

      • Christopher Johnston

        • May 16th, 2014 17:57

        The UK imported 12.3 million tons of coal from the USA in 2013, 10 times greater than 10 years before. Millions of tons sit in storage piles at Drax. Here’s a link to the article:

        Importing coal to the UK makes as much sense as importing wood to Shetland for boiler fuel.

      • John Tulloch

        • May 16th, 2014 21:41

        The reason for the coal imports is because the price of US coal is very low, owing to the soaring production of unconventional gas which is a third of the price it is here so US utilities are using it to produce electricity in place of coal so now they export it to European countries who are becoming desperate for affordable energy.

        In that respect I have no problem with such coal imports because my own electricity bills are hideously expensive thanks to the lunacy invested in our energy policies by politicians in London and Edinburgh.

        And I don’t care where North Fish’s wood comes from, I just don’t like being told something is a wonderful panacea for relieving all our energy woes when it’s no more than politicians painting a fantasy to garner votes from gullible people.

        When I see some convincing evidence that carbon dioxide emissions are likely to cause serious problems, I may change my view, not before.

    • Christopher Johnston

      • May 15th, 2014 11:58

      Rosa, I believe John is barking up the right tree. If we are playing the “green” game, we must play all parts of it. Asking about carbon emissions produced from burning wood is fair game since the mantra of the green movement is to reduce them. The same for transport – what’s being burned is not wood produced in Shetland.
      At the end of the day, there is no free lunch.

  • Wayne Conroy

    • May 14th, 2014 15:23

    Cheaper renewable fuel is always going to be a preferable alternative to fossil fuels and in that respect we should, in my opinion, view this project as a positive step forward.

    Burning wood does produce carbon dioxide but when a tree dies and rots naturally it would also release carbon so using it as a sustainable fuel does seem to make sense as a low carbon solution as long as “waste wood” such as pallets and coppicing is utilised or if more trees are replanted to replace those used (especially with wind power reducing the manufacturing carbon cost.)

    Unfortunately, as you say John, even if replanting was to soak up the carbon dioxide that was produced any emissions are still going to have an impact as all that carbon dioxide is going to have an effect on the environment while new trees are growing. (of course this isn’t so much of an issue with waste wood)

    Burning wood also produces nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides, volatile organic compounds, dioxin, and a couple of dozen other chemicals (these can only be reduced by the use of the likes of an electrostatic precipitator and regenerative thermal oxidizers. We can only hope that this technology is being used and that emissions will be monitored).

    Just like you I am curious where the wood is going to come from to provide the raw materials for this project as last time I looked there weren’t that many trees on the islands and transporting the raw materials needed could make it so that the whole process is pointless as far as an environmental solution goes.

    • John Tulloch

      • May 16th, 2014 9:02

      One splendid source of wood for whatever purpose I see going to waste in vast quantities in Argyll is in the large number of trees knocked over or broken by wind which are simply left lying on the hill or leaning on top of other, healthy trees, looking a terrible mess and many odd pieces good cut timber are just left lying around, rotting into the hill.

      It pains me to think of it each time my ever-increasing electricity and heating oil bills come in, the latter mainly because I’ve switched off my off-peak electric room and water heaters because they are now considerably more expensive than using oil.

      This has been caused by the lunacy invested in energy policies in Edinburgh and London i.e. Industrial scale renewable energy.

  • Ian tinler

    • May 16th, 2014 15:38

    Only the Greens and Shetland business people would build a new wood pelleting plant and have to import wood to supply it. Just how much fuel is burnt importing that wood? Never mind, I am sure loads of grants are available to support this truly daft idea. Now a 500kw wind turbine project which is being set up at North Hoo Field, with the support of a £700,000 loan through REIF. What an absolute waste of money, now how many fuel storage facilities will be under this wind turbine project and just what will happen if a turbine fire drops burning debris onto the fuel storage tanks. Never mind, I am sure there will be a grant to cover any fuel fire losses. Loads of money for everyone!!!

  • ian tinkler

    • May 16th, 2014 21:09

    £700,000 loan through REIF, what about are rural schools? Salmond get your head out of your fundamental please. Sorry keep it there, greatest endorsement “No” ever.

  • David Spence

    • May 17th, 2014 12:04

    As Arthur C. Clarke once said (which is regrettable) ‘ The only way the human race is going to be able to sustain and increase its energy demands without further damaging the environment with fossil fuels is to go Nuclear ‘………..which is a shame…..because these so-called ‘ new energy technologies ‘ come nowhere near the demand…… fact, it is almost laughable……..and yet the thrust to produce new cleaner energy (but actually still produce vast amounts of pollution) is the ‘ new thing to do ‘………but people being people……if they are like most capitalists…….where they put selfishness, greed and profits ahead of anything else….(Viking Energy Project) then this so-called new energies are very much doomed to fail……..and cause just as much pollution………..but hey, as long as they (dreaded shareholders) make a little profit, eh?

  • ian tinkler

    • May 18th, 2014 11:57

    Am I alone in finding it beyond reason that literally millions and millions of pounds can be are being so squandered on idiotic schemes such as a wood pellet plant on Shetland. Why on Shetland, the place with the shortest tree growing season in the UK! Just how can Highlands and Islands Enterprises throw money around like this on truly stupid ideas. Is there some new religion called the Green Fools. We seem to be developing a breed of even more daft than usual politicians, the renewable zealots who are blinded to what is of real importance to Shetland folk, like our schools and rural education . People shout loud and long and protest this idiocy, our very communities are being threatened and apathy will just let it happen.

    • Sandy McMillan

      • May 19th, 2014 23:24

      Ian they are sorting it out as we write, the Councillors have agreed on there way to there ? are going to gather Drift wood, The Furniture from the various Council establishments may be a worry.

      • Shuard Manson

        • May 24th, 2014 1:46

        What a good project. I wish you all the success you deserve.

  • ian tinkler

    • May 24th, 2014 21:49

    “I wish you all the success you deserve? “Shuard Manson, please explain, why is £80,000 in grants deserved here? Please explain, some of us have to pay for this, and actually have more than half a brain and can not understand such waste!!!.


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