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Harnessing Biomass: Wood Pellet Boilers in New Zealand’s Primary Schools Spearhead Climate Change Mitigation

In the pursuit of a sustainable future, communities across the globe are actively seeking renewable alternatives to combat climate change. New Zealand, renowned for its commitment to environmental stewardship, has taken a commendable step forward by replacing coal boilers with wood pellet boilers in primary schools. These biomass boiler systems serve as a beacon of sustainable heating solutions, offering numerous benefits that extend beyond reducing carbon emissions. In this blog post, we delve into the significance of wood pellet boilers in New Zealand’s educational institutions and explore the multiple advantages they bring in the fight against climate change.

Wood pellet boilers utilize wood pellets, a readily available renewable resource derived from compacted organic matter. These boilers offer a cleaner, more sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuel-based heating systems. By harnessing biomass, New Zealand’s primary schools are transitioning towards a greener future while setting an example for the wider community.


Wood pellet boilers provide an invaluable teaching tool for primary schools, fostering environmental awareness and sustainability education. Students can actively participate in learning about renewable energy sources, carbon neutrality, and the importance of responsible resource management.

Benefits of a wood pellet boiler system

  • Reduced Carbon Emissions: The adoption of wood pellet boilers significantly reduces the carbon footprint as wood pellets emit far less carbon dioxide during combustion compared to fossil fuels, helping to mitigate climate change and reduce the overall greenhouse gas emissions associated with heating.


  • Renewable Energy Source: Wood pellets are derived from sustainably managed forests, making them a renewable energy source. Unlike finite fossil fuels, the supply of wood pellets can be replenished through responsible forestry practices. This ensures a long-term and sustainable heating solution for New Zealand. When managed properly, forests can act as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By using wood pellets sourced from sustainably managed forests, the carbon emissions released during combustion can be offset by the carbon sequestered by new tree growth.


  • Cost-Effectiveness: Wood pellet boilers offer significant cost savings in the long run. While the initial installation costs may be higher compared to traditional heating systems, the lower cost of wood pellets and potential government incentives can help offset these expenses. Moreover, improved energy efficiency and reduced maintenance requirements contribute to long-term financial savings.


  • Local Economy and Job Creation: The use of wood pellets promotes local economies by supporting forestry industries and creating jobs. As the demand for wood pellets increases, it drives growth in the forestry sector, generating employment opportunities and stimulating economic development in rural communities.

Paeroa School:

Disconnecting the Coal Boiler:

The first step involved disconnecting the existing coal boiler from the plant room. This required careful planning and coordination to ensure the safe removal of the equipment and disconnection of associated systems such as fuel supply and exhaust.


Positioning and Assembly of the New Boiler:

The pellet boiler was then installed in the designated position within the plant room. The boiler was fixed down securely to ensure stability and safety.


Assembly of Hopper Silo:

To facilitate the storage and automated feeding of pellet fuel, a hopper silo was assembled within the plant room. This allowed for convenient and efficient fuel management, ensuring a continuous supply of pellets to the boiler.


Motor and Vacuum Line Setup:

The motor responsible for operating the auger, which feeds pellets into the boiler, was connected and tested. Vacuum lines were fixed to facilitate the removal of ash and ensure clean and efficient operation.


Piping for Boiler Connection:

Piping was installed to connect the pellet boiler to the existing heating system within the plant room. This involved careful planning and sizing to ensure proper heat distribution throughout the school.


Pellet Testing and Fuel Loading:

To verify the system’s functionality, bagged pellets were dumped into the hopper for initial testing. This step allowed for adjustments and fine-tuning, ensuring smooth operation and optimal fuel combustion.


Electrical and WiFi Connectivity:

The pellet boiler and associated components were connected to the electrical supply, including the necessary wiring for the boiler and pump. Additionally, the boiler was connected to the school’s WiFi network, enabling remote monitoring and control.

Mercury Bay School

Delivery and Securing of Equipment:

The Energy Box and equipment were delivered to the school site. The container was carefully secured to footings to ensure stability and safety.


Integration of Boiler into the Plant Room:

The new boiler was installed in the existing plant room, following proper positioning and securing procedures. This step involved connecting the boiler to the necessary utilities such as fuel supply and exhaust systems.


Fabrication and Installation of Header Piping:

New header piping was fabricated and installed in the existing boiler room. The piping was designed to connect the Energy Box, Boiler Room, and the existing header system, ensuring proper flow and distribution of hot water.


Piping of Boilers and Installation of Circulation Pumps:

The boilers were connected through piping between the Energy Box, Boiler Room, and the header system. Three circulation pumps were installed to facilitate the movement of hot water within the heating system, improving heat distribution and efficiency.


Cold Water Supply and Water System Filling:

A cold water supply was connected to the new boiler system, ensuring a constant source of water for heating purposes. The system was then filled with water to prepare for operation.


HW F&R Return Piping and Insulation:

Hot water (HW) flow and return (F&R) piping were installed to connect the new heating system with the existing piping. The new piping was insulated with foil-backed insulation to minimize heat loss and improve system efficiency.

Installation of Wood Pellet Boilers in New Zealand’s Primary Schools

Miller Avenue School

Flue Assembly and Weatherproofing:

The flue and its supports were assembled and erected in the plant room. Additionally, weatherproofing measures, such as flashing, were applied to the supplied flue penetrations in the plant room roof to ensure a secure and watertight installation.


Modbus and Temperature Sensor Cable Installation:

Modbus cable was installed between the boiler and the I/O panel to enable communication and control functions. A 2-core temperature sensor cable was also installed between the boiler and an indicative classroom, taking necessary precautions to protect exposed cable sections between buildings.


Decommissioning and Recommissioning:

All work associated with decommissioning and removing the old boiler was undertaken, including disconnecting and recommissioning the school’s heating system to accommodate the new OkoFEN Boiler. The recommissioning was done with a minimum pressure of 1 bar to ensure optimal system performance.


Plant Room Refurbishment:

The plant room underwent cleaning, painting, and, where necessary, relining or repairing to meet acceptable standards for an old building’s plant room. This included sealing and weatherproofing any penetrations created during the removal of the existing flue and other components.


Expansion Vessel, Mixing Valve, and Wiring Centre:

The installation included the placement of an expansion vessel, motorized mixing valve, and heating controller wiring centre in the plant room. This ensured proper functioning and control of the heating system.


Low Loss Header Installation:

A low loss header, serving as a hydraulic separator, was installed in the plant room to facilitate efficient heat transfer and distribution within the system.


Safety Measures and Compliance:

Drains were installed to accommodate the boiler’s safety valve pressure relief drainage. Seismic restraints were also added to secure the boiler and pellet hopper in compliance with safety standards.


Handover and Training:

Upon completion, the project was handed over to school personnel, including comprehensive training on the system’s operation and maintenance.

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