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Fuelling a recycling revolution

Last modified: 07 November 2014

Pisten Bully harvesting biomass

Unique machine: This pisten bully seen in action at the RSPB's Ham Wall reserve in the east, will be used as part of the Kent biomass demo

Image: The RSPB

Harnessing the unused resources in the countryside by turning Heathland materials into energy is the theme of a biomass demonstration by the RSPB in Kent.

Earlier this year RSPB wetland reserves in Somerset, East of England and Scotland successfully took part in a competition to produce energy from reserve biomass funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. This has inspired the biomass demonstration at Sevenoaks and Tudeley Woods reserve in Kent on 27 November.

Managing nature reserves for wildlife results in a great deal of underutilised material and recycling it into fuel would be a good use of resources and could generate funds.

“The aim is to show the process of making the briquettes and producing bio-char from start to finish,” said Sally Mills, RSPB Reserves Bioenergy Project Manager. “We will be cutting vegetation,  storing and drying materials, producing the bio-char and making briquettes with a mobile briquetter. The machines which we will use to cut the heathland materials are both types of forage harvesters with a built in collection system, neither of which have been trialled in the UK on heathland before.

“This is about managing our habitats effectively and putting this material to good use. The trials will enable us to see what it can be used for, such as powering boilers, or to make briquettes to be sold to burn on fires or in wood burners. The bio-char can be used separately or to make briquettes.

“We will also be showing how to dry and store the harvested material easily and efficiently which can often be an issue and put people off getting involved in biomass production,” said Sally.

Demonstrating the biomass to bioenergy process aims to encourage other groups to recycle waste material in this way.  The aim is to turn gorse, scrub, heather and bracken into fuel briquettes which can be burned to produce heat. Briquettes could then be sold commercially or used to power boilers. A bio-char kiln will also be used to produce bio-char from the material.

The project is supported by the CaRe-Lands 2 Seas Project (see below for more details).

Tudeley Woods near Sevenoaks is home to a variety of species including tree pipits, nightjars, great spotted woodpeckers and crossbills. 

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