The systems will be powered by wood chip, but from 2015, EU regulations mean poultry litter can be used as fuel.
It is the first time the renewable energy firm has won a project of this size with a large food processor, creating around 51 jobs, including nine full time positions, and it will oversee responsibility of the technology for the next 20 years.
The partnership is jointly funded by Lumicity, which secured £24.5m from the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB), £12m from the Energy Saving Investments (ESI) fund, £12.5m private sector capital from the Equitix Energy Efficiency Fund (EEEF) and Bernard Matthews which is paying £1.7m a year for the wood chip.
Tristan Fischer, CEO/founder, Lumicity, told FoodProdcutionDaily the company previously used liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as a fuel.
“Biomass boilers are better than LPGs because they are healthier for the birds. Previouslyemissions were deposited just above the bird’s head, which was not a particularly healthy environment,” he said.
“Using a hot water system like ours results in 35% humidity for wood chip compared to 65% humidity for LPG. Supermarkets demand increasing amounts of green energy in the supply chain, with biomass it is much better for the bird’s lungs, it reduces bedding, it’s good for the farmer saving money and improves the feed conversion ratio for the birds.
"Bernard Matthews is paying about £3.3m for LPG and the wood chip will be about £1.7m so a savings of about 50% per annum. We are currently trialling the fuel with turkey litter to see what mixture we can put into the machines on a regular basis without damaging the technology.
“If they can co-farm the boilers with wood chip and turkey litter then they should be able to see greater savings they aren’t currently getting, which is a real driver for them, but it is not a fuel yet.”
Biomass boilers from Herz
Fischer said Lumicity has been working on the initiative for about 18 months and it approached Bernard Matthews about the idea.
“What we like most about this project was that the company has 179 packaged plant rooms which are almost identical to each other. Usually, you have to make retrofits in existing buildings which is difficult to do, but the advantage of this entire system is that it has a boiler, fuel storage area and pumps linked to a heat exchanger which can be built in a factory in a controlled environment then the entire packaged plant room gets delivered on the back of a truck.
“The unit is ready to go as soon as it arrives on-site and is connected up to various pipework and heating systems. The project can then be replicated at each plant.
“This is the largest project of its kind in the UK and the boilers are made by Herz in Austria. It’s the first time we have worked with a food manufacturer. We are now looking at the chicken and pig sector.
“It is interesting because they have similar characteristics, we can put packaging plant room products into similar types of shed design to replicate what we have learnt today, the main characteristic is that they are off-grid, so heating those sheds is very expensive, because they are not on the main gas system.”
Lumicity identified the sites, designed the project, advised Bernard Matthews throughout the process of tendering and negotiating, and sourced the funding.
The first site, near Beccles in Suffolk, became fully operational in May. It comprises six 199kW systems servicing 12 sheds. A further 28 have been commissioned, 45 are onsite and will be operational by the end of June. The rest will be rolled out by the end of October.
David Joll, executive chairman, Bernard Matthews, said the biomass heating systems will lead to savings, both in fuel costs and CO2 emissions.
"Sustainability is central to our long term business strategy. We’re already generating a large proportion of our energy needs from other renewable sources, including solar and wind, and with the addition of biomass boilers on our farms, we’re well placed to be generating 100% of our energy sustainably by 2016,” he added.
Fischer said the firm has now been approached by a number of food manufacturers to roll out similar schemes for them and it has plans to expand outside of the UK over the next five years.