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Biomass Heating Containers

A modern heat supply concept

Regionally-based, efcient and

environmentally-friendly heat supplied
by farmers and forest owners

The use of a heating container enables local biomass heat to be supplied

flexibly, cost-effectively and without taking up a lot of space.
With heating container solutions, the complete heating and storage equipment, including the flue gas cleaning system
and chimney, are housed in a single container. The ready-to-use container is delivered by truck and only needs to be
connected to the electricity, water and heat networks to go into operation. Originally developed as flexible facilities for
emergency supply, today these systems are used successfully as fixed, low-cost heating supply installations. Heating
containers are not only used to supply local heat, but also in detached homes and apartment blocks (buildings
without cellars) and as heating supply options for commercial and industrial units.
The container solutions, which are equipped with wood pellet or wood chip heating systems, are available in a wide
variety of designs and provide outputs between 10 kW and 2 MW. For the supply of local biomass heat, heating container systems producing up to 600 kW have proved most effective, as on the one hand the construction of a separate boiler house for outputs lower than this threshold is not financially viable for many projects, and on the other hand
the heating system components required for larger outputs (e.g. expansion vessels, buffer storage, boiler house pipework, etc.) take up a correspondingly larger amount of space. Depending on the supplier, the heating and storage
containers measure approx. 7 x 3 x 3 metres.
In order to comply with architectural requirements, the containers, which are made of wood, steel or concrete, may
be clad with facing tiles or wooden boards if desired. Some manufacturers offer their heating containers in combination with thermal solar panels, in which case the solar panels are attached directly to the container.

Five steps to the supply of heat

Heating containers are easy to transport, can be set up and connected in just a few hours and put into operation in
only five steps:

Concreting and preparation of a strip or slab foundation


Preparation of the necessary connections (supply and return heat conduction pipes, electricity, water)


Delivery of the heat and biomass storage containers by truck or construction of a biomass storage space


Connection of all connecting pipes and cables


Commissioning and commencement of heat supply

Depending on the heat requirements, the fuel storage space can be accommodated in the same container as the heat
supply system or, in the case of larger heat and fuel quantities, in several separate containers. The containers can be
arranged like LEGO bricks in modular fashion (heating and storage containers) either on top of or alongside one
another. If the consumers demand for heat increases, the system can quickly and easily be extended by a second or
further heating container or storage container, which also contains the fuel feed equipment. The storage container is
filled using a compressor or an auger with a trough. The lower storage capacity of the container does, however, lead
to additional demands on the fuel supply logistics. Practical experience has already shown that the necessary storage
space can be built separately by the operator at low cost.

Local heat supply for low-density settlements

The supply of local biomass heat is one of the key future technologies for reducing emissions of the polluting greenhouse gas CO2. 50% of the daily energy demand is expended on space and water heating, which is why the implementation of micro and local heating projects should make a significant contribution towards protecting the climate.
In order to operate in an ecologically and economically efficient manner, the heat supply network needs to be sized
accordingly. If the networks put in place are too extensive and cover too wide an area, the investment and operating
costs rise significantly and compromise the overall cost-effectiveness of the project. The new subsidy guidelines specify that the heat output of the network must amount to at least 900 kWh per linear metre of pipeline and that the
specific connected load must be approx. 1.5 kW per metre of pipeline. The network losses may not amount to any
more than 20% of the heat fed into the network.
In the case of many local heating system designs, the boiler is still as large as possible and sized without taking adequate account of the pipeline distances. The emphasis is on obtaining as many consumers as possible at any price
so that the high investment costs can be presented on paper as being mathematically plausible. However, experience
shows that only an optimised and economically viable project can guarantee a sustainable supply of energy over the
long term. Heating container solutions are thus ideally suited for use in low-density settlement areas where establishing central heating plants is not financially or ecologically justifiable due to the immense pipeline lengths required.
In future, the use of smaller, efficient heating container solutions will constitute a sensible and financially viable heating supply concept, especially in scattered settlements.

System solutions that pay off

Distribution of investment costs for a 400 kW biomass-fuelled local heating plant

Planning and
miscellaneous 5%

Boiler house 10%

Local heating network &
transfer stations 35%
Construction costs 25%

Storage 10%

External equipment 5%
Heating system 35%

Comparison of costs for a 400 kW local heating plant with boiler house and a heating container solution
(subsidies not included)


E 93/MWh

- 10%

Annual heat supply costs in

E 84/MWh



Fuel costs
Investment costs


Local heating plant

Heating container solution

In the case of local heating projects, around 40% 60% of the total costs are accounted for by heat supply (construction costs, technical equipment, planning). The remaining 40% 60% of the costs are accounted for by heat
distribution (local heating network and heat transfer station). These costs are difficult to minimise (see illustration).
Heating container solutions start by reducing the heat supply costs. The high costs associated with the construction
and/or conversion of heating plants is all too often the knock-out criterion for local biomass heating projects. With
the container construction method, it is possible depending on the project to save between 20% and 40% of the
heat supply costs, thus making a decisive contribution to improving the projects cost-effectiveness.
The model calculation shows, taking a local heating project as an example, that the annual costs of heat generation
can be reduced by approx. 10% or 5,000 with a heating container solution (see illustration). Calculated over the
lifespan of a plant, the savings amount to over 100,000. Batch production and simple assembly reduce the production costs. Since local biomass heating plants are very capital-intensive, a reduction in the investment costs will in
any event lead to a reduction in the loan capital interest charges. The supply and assembly of pre-fabricated modules
means that the investment costs can be estimated very accurately and the planning costs significantly reduced. In
practice, every cent counts when deciding whether or not to set up a local heating project. Disadvantages of container solutions are their low storage capacity and compact design (repair work). Moreover, due to the more complex
fuel supply logistics, fuel costs are approx. 10% higher.
Every project has its own characteristics, for which reason reliable cost savings can only be used for decision making
on the basis of project-related cost comparisons. Under all circumstances future operators of micro networks and
local heating plants should consider heating container solutions when planning their systems.

Systems with a future

Container systems are almost always afflicted with a negative image among local heating plant operators, as they are
thought of as a temporary solution. Expensive boiler houses are still being built, which at first glance can scarcely be
distinguished from residential buildings. The anticipated reduction in subsidies and the increasing costs of fuel supply and procurement will inevitably lead to a rising need for optimisation and cost savings. With the development of
the heating container market, demand for this innovative solution will also increase, and trading in used containers
may become an interesting alternative in future, as used or new containers can be flexibly adapted to the existing heat
demand situation.

Successfully implemented heating container solution in Styria/Austria

With support from the EU project Agri for
Energy II it was possible to realise a modern container solution in Kobenz. This
local heating project in Styria was implemented in order to make profitable use
of volumes of storm-damaged and fallen
timber and beetle-infested wood that
could not otherwise be marketed. To
create added value in forestry, a decision
was made to become involved in energy
production. The central idea is to access
the end of the value added chain at the
level of the consumer, in other words to
Biomass heating container solution in Kobenz, Styria (l.t.r.: Mr. Kberl,
the biomass coordinator from the Styrian Chamber of Agriculture and
Forestry, together with the proud owners, Mr. and Mrs. Dietrich)

move away from supplying raw materials

and towards energy supply. The 200 kW
heating container system supplies space

heat from local, renewable sources to a nursing home for the elderly, a residential building and a large farm building.
In the near future, another assisted living complex will also join the network, so that the plant will be fully utilised.
Over and above this, there are plans to expand
the plant in a second stage of construction over
the next few years. Eight different options were
considered, and eventually it was decided that
the heating container was the most economically viable solution for this concept. Moreover, it
was essential to find a quick and cost-efficient
option because the newly constructed nursing
home for the elderly needed to be provided with
space heat. The successful realisation of the
heating container solution in Kobenz is not least
due to the efforts of the bioenergy coordinator
from the IEE project Agri for Energy II. Further
projects are already being planned or in the

Owner-constructed wood chip bunker Kobenz biomass heating


process of implementation.

Agri for Energy II aims to connect supply & demand side stakeholders and to foster new bioenergy businesses in
three specific sectors: biomass heating, pure vegetable oil and biogas/biomethane. In these sectors, involvement
and advocacy of farmers and forest owners will achieve the greatest impact.

Main objectives and actions:

Support the establishment of agreements between parties for new biomass heating plants
Promote decentralised PVO production to satisfy transport fuel demand and achieve self-sustainment on farms
Boost biogas plants to achieve heat and electricity production capabilities or upgrade them to biomethane
for use as a transport fuel
Identify and train regional bioenergy coordinators to support efficient bioenergy business models
Disseminate project results and good practices to regions with significant
untapped bioenergy potential across and beyond target countries

The regional bioenergy coordinator facilitates the connection of key

market actors with potential customers via the WSO key market
start-up model. Project activities are currently ongoing in Austria,
Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Bulgaria, Finland and Sweden. You are
warmly welcome to get involved in the project and visit our webpage

Come and get involved in the project on

For more information, please contact:

Mag. Thomas Loibnegger
Styrian Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry
Department of Energy and Biomass
Tel.: +43 (0) 316 8050 1407; fax: ext. 1430;

The sole responsibility for the content of this folder lies with the authors. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Communities. The European
Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

2011 | Layout:; author: Mag. Thomas Loibnegger; edited by: Mag. Michaela Beichbuchner; photographs: Dan Bar ne s, L K -St e i e r m ar k.

Agri for Energy II