Boiler to solve hot topic of cold centre
A WOOD-BURNING boiler is to be installed at the council-run Hothouse enterprise centre – because it is losing business by being too cold.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is installing a £500,000 biomass energy system at the Longton facility as part of a European-funded project to trial sustainable power in the city.
The boiler will be powered using woodchip created at a fuel hub which will recycle trees the city council cuts down.
It could lead to the creation of a self-contained energy network which generates income and helps power neighbouring businesses using surplus energy from the recycled wood.
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A total of £646,000 will be spent on creating a hub and installing the boiler, with half of the money paid by the council and the rest funded through a European programme backed by research organisations including Staffordshire University.
Cut-price heating bills will see the council recoup its investment within four years – and it will no longer have to pay to ship its wood waste out of the city.
The Hothouse enterprise centre, based at St James House, in Webberley Lane, Longton, provides 24 offices and workshops with affordable short-term leases for up-and-coming entrepreneurs and businesses. It also offers commercial conference facilities.
But bookings have slumped amid complaints that the building is unpleasantly cold during the winter.
Councillor Andy Platt, cabinet member for green enterprises, said: "It's known as the Hothouse enterprise centre but it can't be called that anymore as they're losing clients because it's so cold in there!
"They're hoping this will increase bookings and improve uptake of their units. They have a conference facility there that people don't come back to because it's so cold.
"Just through the normal operations of the city council we cut down more wood than is actually required for this and at the moment it has to be shipped out of the city.
"This is very important for us as it is enhancing our reputation locally, nationally and within the EU – not only for the green agenda but also the delivery of significant projects."
Paul Shotton, the authority's deputy leader, said the project is the first move toward the city's ambitions to become independent of the national grid by generating its own power from natural resources.
Other plans include generating power from hot water bubbling beneath Chatterley Whitfield and running through mine shafts.
He added: "It's one of the first steps in our ambitions to become self-sustainable.
"Needless to say, oil, gas and coal reserves are depleting and they're only going to be around for a relatively short period of time in real terms."
The authority is also hoping the move will encourage business start-ups by making the centre more appealing.
Mark Meredith, responsible for economic development in the city, said: "It is the right and sensible thing to do.
"Many businesses that have gone on to employ many people started off at the old Hothouse."