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Gisborne Olympic pool heated by local wood chips

Gisborne Olympic pool heated by local wood chips
August 16, 2010

A wood chip boiler installed at the Gisborne Olympic Pool in June is already paying dividends.

The Austrian-made KOB wood boiler is fuelled by up to 12 cubic metres of wood chips every winter day - wood chips supplied by local firewood contractor Kevin McBreen who sources locally-grown timber off-cuts that might otherwise go to waste.

The boiler replaced a 30-year old gas heater that cost $150,000 a year to run per year in energy costs. As a result of New Zealand's new emissions trading scheme on all fossil burning fuels introduced on 1st July, that bill was set to rise by $7,000 this year. By contrast, the estimated fuel costs with the new boiler will be $110,000 each year, saving ratepayers $47,000.

That money will also stay in the local economy instead of going out of the district to a large national gas company.

Recent weeks have been spent installing and testing the new wood chip boiler which is only one of three in New Zealand. The 400 kilowatt boiler is a carbon neutral heating option that after two weeks of full operation is exceeding all the Olympic Pool Manager, Hendrik Geyer's, expectations.

As Geyer explains "the boiler burns wood in a highly efficient way. Unlike a normal woodburner there is very little ash or smoke because it burns to 92% efficiency. It burns nearly as cleanly as natural gas; there is no air pollution and the only noticeable emission is the occasional puff of water vapour."

After several years of researching pool heating options Gisborne Council choose the wood boiler. The contract was awarded to Spark Energy Ltd, the New Zealand supplier of KOB wood boilers.

The total cost of the wood boiler was $540,000 including installation. Because the boiler makes the pools nearly carbon neutral, a $150,000 grant and a $319,000 interest-free loan from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) was received, along with $61,000 in loan funding from council.

Spark Energy has contracted Kevin Mc Breen to supply the wood chips for the next five years.

Andy Marchant, an independent engineering consultant commissioned by EECA to assess the new boiler and installation was very impressed when he visited the pool, stating âcouncil has made a wise investment. It has future-proofed the operation of the pool complex. The technology is sound; in fact for this type of operation the chosen boiler is one of the best on the market. I was impressed with the overall design and the quality of the installation and how the pool team has embraced the new technology. They are continuing to optimise the performance of the system and to achieve maximum efficiency.

Geyer adds "the installation and testing has gone really well; there have been very few glitches.

"We are still ironing out the fuel delivery process but some testing and refining was to be expected. On the whole installation has surpassed my best case scenario. It feels good to be delivering a sustainable solution to heating the pool complex that keeps money in the district and reduces our reliance on ratepayers. I invite all large heat users to come and have a look at what we have achieved."

The Gisborne Olympic Pool complex has six separate pools:

• 50 metre seven-lane pool
• 33 metre outdoor recreation pool
• Dive pool with diving boards
• 98 metre-long hydro-slide
• Outdoor toddlers pool with slide
• Hot spa/therapy pools

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