Westbury and the renewable heat incentive

Written by: RWW | Published:

Government financial incentives are a cost effective way to allow UK businesses to become carbon neutral. One of these schemes is the renewable heat incentive, which was introduced by the government in 2011. Essex-based company Westbury was the second business in the UK to sign up for it. Jonathan Hey, MD Westbury Garden Rooms and Westbury Windows & Joinery, reports.

When it comes to reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, the generation of heat from renewable energy sources was identified as a valuable step towards meeting targets for reducing the effects of climate change. 

The RHI is a financial incentive designed to assist businesses in meeting the cost of installing renewable heat systems.

The incentive was launched in November 2011, and is now approaching its two-year anniversary. Businesses generating their own renewable heat are entitled to be paid up to 9.2p/kWhr for it; although this amount can vary depending on which renewable heat system is used and how much heat is produced. 

For the majority of businesses, the amount is enough to cover the cost of the system installation in only a few years.

Renewable heat technology that is covered by the incentive includes heat pumps, solar thermal collectors and biomass boilers.

Biomass boilers

Particularly suited to businesses that produce a lot of organic waste, the biomass boiler system is fuelled by exactly that: biological material. Organic waste such as wood waste is delivered to a fuel store which is attached to the boiler. The fuel is then burned and the energy produced provides heating and hot water for the connected system. Depending on the type of biomass system the amount of manpower required can vary; from fully automatic conveyor belts to semi-automatic systems.

Taking advantage of the RHI

Essex-based company Westbury was the second business in the UK to sign up for the renewable heat incentive. 

Westbury Garden Rooms and Westbury Joinery & Windows are sister companies which run side-by-side in the same factory with the same staff. Westbury Garden Rooms is a UK manufacturer and designer of bespoke garden rooms, orangeries and pool houses while Westbury Joinery manufactures windows and doors designed to a customer’s specific requirements. As would be expected from a joinery company, Westbury produce a considerable amount of wood waste in the manufacture of their products. 

However, the RHI provided them with the opportunity to convert wood waste into fuel to assist the company towards carbon neutrality.

Under the government scheme, Westbury was able to replace their four gas boilers with one biomass boiler system, fuelled by wood chips and supplying heat and hot water to the factory and surrounding offices. 

The biomass boiler negates the need for gas on site; dramatically reducing energy bills. 

The company has also made considerable cost savings on wood waste, skips, waste transport costs, and landfill.


In the case of Westbury, the biomass boiler was installed by Ranheat Engineering. Taking their name from Randers in Denmark, a country that has been burning wood for fuel on a large scale for over 300 years, Ranheat specialise in manufacturing biomass energy management solutions.

Ranheat were called in to install the biomass boiler when Westbury moved to new premises in 2012. Greeted by a nearly empty former tobacco factory, and after a site survey, the existing gas boilers were removed. 

Due to their age they were deemed unsafe to use and the old water heating system was also pressure tested to check for faults.

Two Ranheat engineers spent three weeks assembling and installing the 300kW boiler, which was manufactured in Northampton along with Ranheat’s other products. 

The boiler is fully automatic, so wood waste and offcuts are delivered directly from the machines in the factory to the boiler.

Despite the large size of Westbury’s boiler, it is by no means as large as Ranheat’s most popular product: the 980kW biomass boiler. 

Ideal for use in large factories and manufacturers of kitchens, the RHI has been an extremely valuable investment for anyone in the industry.

Chris Franklin, director of Ranheat Engineering, said that “anyone whose industry involves a significant amount of wood would be crazy not to have a biomass boiler.”

Other uses

The fuel type does not have to be limited to wood waste. Organic waste can extend to any living or recently living material, allowing for the use of material such as grasses, corn and grains.

Biomass boilers are unlike gas boilers in that they are not suited to being turned on and off, and are most effective when operating continuously. This makes them ideal for meeting the requirements of constant industrial processes and subsequent heat demands. As such, factories and other temperature suited organisations such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals are also suited to having a biomass boiler installation.

The results

The cost savings and subsequent economic benefit from using a biomass boiler can be dramatic. In the first 12 months of operation, Westbury recovered 186,090Kwh of energy through its biomass boiler, along with a payment of just under £10,000 to the company from the government.

In terms of savings, Westbury has saved at least £500 a month on gas bills, plus £2,000 a month on skip fire for the wood being transported away. Despite the fact the cost of installation in this instance was £187,000 (+VAT), it will only be a few years before the money made in savings covers the cost of the original investment.

However, the RHI is not solely about financial savings. With Britain still having a long way to go towards a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emission, the use of a biomass boiler installation demonstrates a positive green message to the rest of the industry and is one of a number of steps Westbury have taken towards self-sustainability. Westbury also uses timber from sustainable sources, including a non-toxic, recyclable raw wood called Accoya.

With the RHI scheme payments and the saving on the cost for wood waste skips, fuel usage and zero landfill requirement, the system has proven to be a valuable investment for both Westbury and the environment.   


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