Biomass Feasibility Assessment Rick BarthelmieMSc AEES iii January 2010
Rural communities in the north of Scotland do not have access to mains gas and rely onbottled gas, fuel oil, coal, wood and electricity for their domestic space heating and hot water needs. Sparse populations and close proximity to woodland supporting the timber industriesmay allow these communities access to a supply of biomass from timber waste and forestryresidues that could be used for community heating and hot water schemes. An assessment method and spreadsheet model is presented that would allow planners andproject managers to rapidly assess of demand and supply using basic input methods toproduce a biomass feasibility index: a measure of that community’s ability to be self sufficientin biomass production to meet their heating and hot water needs in the long term.Demand is assessed with a short questionnaire that aims to understand the household, thedwelling, usage patterns, fuels used, annual energy consumption and opinions on communityheating schemes. An alternative demand assessment can be conducted rapidly usingindustry average data.Supply is assessed through a structured assessment of source zones that can be used toestimate available biomass resources after allowances for biodiversity, processing,conversion and distribution. A biomass feasibility index is calculated from supply anddemand estimates to indicate the community’s ability to become self sufficient in heating andhot water from local biomass sources. The assessment method may be used to focusinvestment on those communities that may benefit through meeting their needs from locallyavailable and sustainable sources without impacting the biodiversity or primary industry useof woodlands.Promotion of biomass as a fuel may have further benefits once economies of scale arereached and could provide additional local employment in remote rural communities thatwould reduce net migration from these areas.The biomass feasibility assessment model and methodology were able to produce resultsconsistent with other assessment methods. A biomass feasibility index was calculated for thetwo case study communities over a range of fuel types. Further work is required onbiodiversity calculations and sourcing a consistent supply data set. The model may be of further use when integrated into a financial feasibility model for biomass schemes.