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Waiouru Becomes NZ’s Largest Wood Pellet User

8 September 2011

Waiouru Becomes Nz’s Largest Wood Pellet User

A ground-breaking project at Waiouru Army Base has increased our national wood pellet consumption by 50% and reduced carbon emissions by more than 10,000 tonnes per year.

The New Zealand Defence Force facility now boasts the largest wood pellet-fired boiler in the country, with the conversion of its 8 MW boiler from coal to renewable wood pellets. The project displaces the use of 5,300 tonnes of coal annually, cutting CO2 emissions by 10,500 tonnes per year.

“The New Zealand Defence Force is always looking at how we can implement sustainable practices and improve the environmental performance of our ships, camps and bases. Thanks to this project, Waiouru’s heat and hot water now comes from carbon neutral, renewable energy – which is great for our operation and for New Zealand as a whole,” Manager Facilities Management Services, Lieutenant Colonel Warren Parke said.

EECA Manager for Business Renewables Shaun Bowler said the project shows clearly that wood energy is a practical option for organisations with large energy needs. “Increasing New Zealand’s use of bioenergy is a major plank of the Government’s new energy strategy. It brings numerous benefits – not only reducing our carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, but supporting our local wood industry by getting more value from our forests.”

The boiler started operation in May, and has successfully kept the base warm through Waiouru’s polar temperatures this winter. Defence’s Waiouru base provides barrack accommodation for 1,400 staff as well as training, workshop, catering, garage and office facilities.

The Defence Force opted for the wood pellet conversion following a feasibility study and trials that showed wood was a viable option. As well as reduced CO2 emissions, the project means no soot and sulphur emissions, lower maintenance costs and prolonged boiler life. Unlike coal ash which needs careful handling and disposal, ash from the clean-burning wood pellets is fully biodegradable and can be used as a fertiliser.

The project was supported by both Solid Energy (through subsidiary Nature’s Flame) and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. The project cost $170,000, with EECA contributing $50,000 and Solid Energy Renewable Fuels $105,000. As the largest wood pellet-fuelled facility in the country, Waiouru is now an excellent demonstration site for other large-scale industrial heat users. Although wood pellets can sometimes be more expensive than coal, Solid Energy has agreed to supply pellets at a favourable rate from its Taupo production facility (the largest wood pellet production facility in the southern hemisphere), recognising the importance of the base as a demonstration site.

“A crucial part of the project involved sourcing an economic, significant and reliable source of wood pellets and this was provided by Nature’s Flame operations in Taupo,” LT COL Parke said.

“In this instance, we were fortunate to be taking a leadership role working with Nature’s Flame and EECA to assist in the development of a fledgling industry that helps to maintain jobs in the forestry industry of the central North Island.”

ENDS

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