Highland Heat and Power Open Day Easter Saturday

An invitation from H&I Bioenergy steering group member Stewart Macintyre.

In addition to our range of Windhager, ETA and Heizomat wood boilers, Highland Heat and Power are now able to supply and install a great range of wood stoves and fireplaces. At their new Highland Home Centre showroom in Dalfaber, Aviemore, we have teamed up with Cairngorm Spas, who supply hot tubs, saunas, barbeques, all to ensure that you keep warm and comfortable outside as well as indoors!

The Highland Home Centre showroom opens this Saturday, 30th March, between 10am and 4pm, when we would be delighted if you were able to join us, whether to discuss your project or to grab some lunch. Danny Alexander MP, will perform the official opening ceremony at 1pm.

Highland Heat & Power Limited
Speyside Business Centre
13 Dalfaber Industrial Estate
PH22 1QH
See the attached poster and share with anyone you think might be interested.

The wind is in the willows on Orkney

Scientists at Rothamsted Research, Imperial College London and the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Agronomy Institute (at Orkney College UHI) have discovered that differences in the ease with which sugars can be extracted from willow can be explained by differences in their wood composition in response to conditions that induce growth stress. Growing willow varieties in environments with strong winds can result in changes in the wood which improves their ability to be used as a renewable biomass resource. In a paper published in Biotechnology for Biofuels, the team describe how this finding will help scientists and breeders improve willow as a source of wood for biofuels and other products normally made unsustainably by refining oil. This work forms part of the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC) where it is linked with other programmes aimed at improving the conversion of biomass to fuels.

Willows are grown as energy crops to provide alternative sources of fuel capture carbon from the atmosphere and fix carbon in the soil. Rothamsted Research holds the National Willow Collection, one of the largest collections of willow in the world. Traditionally grown for basket-making willows are important energy crops because they re-grow quickly after being cut back (or coppiced) with only minimal fertiliser applications; approximately one quarter of that needed for wheat. Willow plantations are also attractive to wildlife and help capture carbon in the soil, which could reduce greenhouse gasses and help combat climate change.

This paper confirms another real benefit of willow – it can be grown in climatically challenging conditions where the options for growing food crops are limited, therefore minimising conflicts of food versus fuel.

External forces, such as wind, can affect the cellular structure of willow through the production of reaction wood (RW). In order to create products such as biofuels, crops like willow need to go through a process called enzymatic hydrolysis where the cellulose fibres that are part of the complex structure of plant cell walls is broken down into sugars that can be converted to fuels and other products. This process is strongly dependant on cell wall structure and is easier in the altered cell walls made naturally in RW. Lead authors of the study were Dr Nick Brereton and Dr Michael Ray, both from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London. Dr Brereton said “It’s been known for some time that trees can naturally develop ‘reaction wood’ which can sometimes make releasing sugars easier. These findings show for the first time that genetic differences among trees in this reaction wood response are directly correlated to natural variation in sugar release from wood and may be the key to unlocking sustainable bioenergy from willow”.

Dr Angela Karp at Rothamsted Research who leads the BBSRC-funded BSBEC-BioMASS project said “We are very excited about these results because they show that some willows respond more to environmental stresses, such as strong winds, by changing the composition of their wood in ways that are useful to us. As breeders this is good news because it means we could improve willow by selecting these types from the huge diversity in our collections”.

The results of this work, coupled with the detailed understanding of willow genetics at Rothamsted Research, courtesy of holding the National Willow Collection, will allow scientists to dissect the nature of RW variation and provide novel means for improved uses of biomass.

We are uncovering a “genetic understanding” of the wind in the willows that may have quite intrigued Mr Toad!

BBC Coverage of the story can be found hereWillow planting on Orkney.

2nd Meeting of the Argyll Woodfuel Forum – book now!

Encouraging Economic Development in our local woodfuel industries

When: Wednesday, 21st November 2012, 10:30-15:00

Where: Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban, Argyll PA21 2DA

Chair: Syd House, Forestry Commission Scotland

Presentations will include:

  • Biomass developments and Argyll & Bute Council’s Economic Development Action Plan – Audrey Martin, Argyll and Bute Council
  • Engaging with the private woodland owners – Mick Bottomley, BSW Timber Group
  • Developing the Highlands and Islands Bioenergy Region – Elaine Morrison, UHI
  • An introduction to biomass boilers at SAMS – Dave Mathias, SAMS (Delegates are invited to see the biomass boilers on site during lunch).
  • Wood Fuel in the Community – Eamon King, Kilfinan Community Forest
  • Argyll Farm Woodland Collaboration Project – stimulating wood fuel production – Neil Donaldson

Discussions to be facilitated by the Chair:

  • What are the main barriers to economic development in the local wood fuel sector?
  • What needs to be done to overcome them?
  • What topics / activities should the Argyll Woodfuel Forum concentrate on in order to facilitate this growth?

To book a place at this free event, please contact:   lynda@alienergy.org.uk   
Tel: 01631 720658

ESSac Highlands and Islands signs the declaration.

The Energy Saving Scotland advice centre for the Highlands and Islands, managed by Changeworks has signed up to support us. The advice centre is one of a network of 5 funded by the Scottish Government to provide free and impartial advice on all aspects of sustainable energy to households, small businesses and communities. Their freephone advice line is 0800 512 012.