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SO Modular unveils biomass boiler investment

SO Modular a Neath-based specialist in timber frame construction, has unveiled a new biomass boiler at its headquarters, the result of a significant investment which moves it closer to becoming completely self-sufficient in terms of its energy and production process.

The cutting-edge waste wood biomass boiler was installed by energy specialist Novalux Energy. It is fuelled by timber offcuts and wood shavings, a natural by-product of the production process and will re-use 90% of the fuel into usable heat.

The 2MW waste wood boiler works by burning the fuel at high temperatures to produce heat, or thermal energy. This thermal energy is transferred to a heat exchanger which provides you with heat for space or processes. Excess heat from the boiler is diverted to an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) which converts the heat into power through a twin screw expander.

One of the most important aspects of the boiler to SOM is that the technology utilises carbon filters to filter out impurities in its emissions to ensure they are not harmful to the local environment.

The installation means that the company is now recycling a very high percentage of its waste material, converting it into heat and energy. The site is now almost self-sufficient in its energy needs during production and even has surplus at some points in time, which it sells to the grid.

All of SO Modular’s timber is sourced locally. The majority comes from its doorstep in the Neath Valley, milled by Pontrilas Sawmills, just over an hour away in Hereford. Founded in 1947, Pontrilas is one of the largest independent sawmills in the UK. SO Modular now uses enough wood every year to build more than 1,000 timber frame homes. This amount is set to increase exponentially as the business grows rapidly and demand for timber frame solutions soars.

In 2019, SO Modular invested some £6.5 million in acquiring and regenerating a large part of the iconic industrial site in Neath. Since its investment, it has capacity to make more than 3,500 homes a year. As such, it is seeking new sources of timber in Wales.

Charlotte Hale, Director of SO Modular, said: “We are embracing sustainability in all aspects of what we do and the biomass boiler is just the first of several initiatives we have planned including solar panels. We believe this will be a fantastic case study for the benefits of the circular economy. Our aim is to sustainably redefine the buildings we construct and restore our new facility to its former glory but in an innovative and eco-friendly way; we want it to be a landmark of the town again, which the community can be proud of, while also benefiting the local supply chain and keeping jobs and money in the region.”

Joseph Allcott, Managing Director of Novalux Energy, said: “Renewable energy systems can fit a variety of applications and in the case of SO Modular, the 2MW waste wood boiler and 100kW ORC works to utilise waste product as a fuel. This is a great example of a renewable system offsetting fossil fuels and benefitting from the Renewable Heat Incentive.”

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