The warmth from the willow

This spiral transports willow chips from the storage bunker to the boiler. © Marleen de Kramer

This spiral transports willow chips from the storage bunker to the boiler.

Mount Stewart recently saw the installation of a new biomass boiler, which burns wood chips very efficiently to provide heat and hot water. The 240kw device will ensure that the Mount Stewart mansion house, offices, reception area, shop, and restaurant are cosy and warm all winter. It's one of the National Trust's largest biomass boiler installations to date, meeting approximately 85% of our heating demands.

Kate Noble, Environmental Practices Advisor commented, 'We want to decommission all of our largest oil heating systems, which are expensive to run and can be highly polluting. The plan is to convert to low fossil carbon alternatives such as wood fuel heating (logs, chips or pellets) or heat pumps. The Mount Stewart boiler is fired with locally-sourced willow chips.'

In addition to the new environmentally friendly heat source, the National Trust is actively adopting an energy-efficient approach to the working day. Staff training and switch off campaigns accompany the installation of movement sensors on lamps, timers on immersion heaters, outdoor lighting and radiators, chimney balloons in open fire places, improved insulation in boiler houses, and draft proofing of windows and doors. In all these ways and more, the Trust is dedicated to achieving its aim of reducing consumption of fossil fuels.

The National Trust plans to install further biomass boilers in 2011 at different properties throughout Northern Ireland, and is currently working on a regional wood fuel strategy to enable a more self-sufficient way of fuelling the new wood-based heating systems.