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Archive - Friday, 1 December 2006
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Finding alternative to oil after price rise cuts bill by 85pc
A NORTH Yorkshire nursery has slashed its heating bill by 85pc, thanks to a new wood-burning boiler.
Ravensworth Nurseries was forced to seek an alternative to oil when the price leapt from 27p to 50p a litre. It was costing £50 an hour, or more than £100,000 to heat three acres of glasshouses between October and May.
Doug Bradbrook, co-founder of the nurseries, said: "We employ 34 people from local villages and, if we had not changed, we would have had no option but to have a big rationalisation. We could not have grown higher-temperature plants any longer."
They researched wind power, but opted for a 2,000kw biomass boiler from Talbot of Stafford. It was the only one big enough for their needs.
Ravensworth is believed to be the first nursery in the country to have such a boiler.
It uses three to four tonnes of wood chips a night to heat water, which runs through pipes to keep frost away from plants such as the 20,000 poinsettias which are being dispatched for Christmas.
The shredding machine comes from America. It handles 12 to 15 tonnes of pallets an hour, which would normally have gone to landfill, and automatically sends any nails to a separate bin.
The business has invested between £350,000 and £450,000 in the entire system, which includes a new generator and electricity transformer.
Mr Bradbrook said: "It will take four or five years to pay for all the equipment but it is worth it."
When the oil price peaked, it cost the nursery more than £1 to grow each poinsettia alone.
The nursery buys in cuttings from Israel or Portugal towards the end of May and grows them naturally, which means they are at the perfect flowering point for Christmas.
Ninety per cent of its entire stock is grown by the nursery, with next year's Mothering Sunday begonias already growing nicely.
Delighted with the new system, Mr Bradbrook is critical of the Government, which constantly encourages companies to go green.
"We found there were no grants available," he said, "and, on top of that, we have to pay £900 a year for an environmental licence from the local authority and £1,200 a year for the boiler to be tested, even though it is completely carbon-free."
Another anomaly is that smaller boilers do not need to be tested. Mr Bradbrook said someone could have three or four putting out the same amount of fuel as one large boiler, without any requirement to have them tested.
He is asking the National Farmers' Union to investigate.
Mr Bradbrook and Bill Hannah founded the nursery 40 years ago. Today it has a £1.8m annual turnover, supplying garden centres and retailers from Edinburgh to Somerset as well as its own on-site sales. It is in Ravensworth, off the A66 Scotch Corner to Penrith road.