Llanwddyn is a small community in the remote forested Vyrnwy valley in Montgomeryshire, Wales. The majority of land, forest and approximately half of the houses in the valley are currently owned by Severn Trent Water. The remainder of the 42 houses that make up the community are in private ownership.The houses, which were built in the 1950’s, are situated around a school and a community centre. The community has a high proportion of retired, low income and unemployed residents. It is not on the gas network and heating systems in the houses include open coal fires, electric storage heating and oil systems.
In 2000, Vyrnwy Forum, a local community group, commissioned Powys Energy Agency to investigate options for boosting the local economy, to be based on the plentiful local wood resources. Powys Energy Agency carried out the investigation with the help of the Forestry Commission and with funding from the Energy Saving Trust. The investigation comprised:
- Energy audit of the community centre and school.
- Energy survey of the existing houses.
- Consultation with the school, community centre and local residents, as well as stakeholder bodies including Powys County Council and Severn Trent Water Ltd.
The energy audit of the school and community centre found that the existing 50 year old oil-fired heating system was in need of replacement. This, coupled with the running costs of the existing system, indicated that the economics of switching to an efficient wood-fuelled heating system would be favourable. Further, high levels of fuel poverty in the community initiated one of the underlying aims of the project, which was to reduce heating costs for public and domestic buildings in the village.
In October 2003, a 600kW wood-chip boiler was installed, linked to a smaller backup oil-fired boiler rated at 315kW. The boilers were sized to meet the full load of the school, the community centre and all 42 dwellings in the immediate vicinity, should they all wish to join.
The installation of wood-fuel heating for the school, community centre and the outlying houses was predicted to save 1,805 tonnes of CO2 over the first five years.