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Community hall installs a wood chip boiler


Construction of Old Leighlin Community Hall in County Carlow, Ireland, commenced in 2003. The objective was to provide a facility for community and sports activities to the highest standard possible, for use by various community groups, sports groups and individuals in Old Leighlin and the surrounding areas.
The project’s management committee was aware of the environmental and economic benefits of using renewable energy for heating. This led the committee to research heating systems that would be an alternative to oil/gas. Following advice from the Carlow Kilkenny Energy Agency, the committee decided that a wood chip boiler system would be the most efficient and suitable heating system for the community centre, with the benefit of being low-maintenance.

Old Leighlin Community Hall

Buidling details

Type of building Community centre and sports facility, including a gym, sports hall, kitchen, meeting rooms and dressing rooms.

Sports hall in the Old Leighlin Community Hall

Year built/ Floor area (m²)/ Operating hours Construction of the 2,500m2 community centre and sports facility began in 2003 and was completed in 2005. The opening hours of the centre vary, but it is currently open in the mornings and evenings.
Heating and cooling installed While the ancillary areas of the community centre were fitted with an under-floor heating system during construction, prior to installation of the biomass boiler, there was no heat generation system in the main hall. In conjunction with installing the new wood chip biomass boiler, the main hall was fitted with a radiant heat distribution system.
Energy/CO2/Water label The wood chip boiler will avoid the emissions of 113 tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year.

Project description

Aim The aim of this project was to install a heating system utilising renewable energy in the Old Leighlin Community Hall in Carlow.
Key points Old Leighlin Community Hall is a community and sports facility, managed by a voluntary management committee, Old Leighlin Community Support Limited. The project promoters have at all stages aimed for the highest specifications of material and work, keeping to the fore the longevity and environmental aspects of the project. It is with these factors in mind that the heating system was approached.

After seeking advice from the Carlow Kilkenny Energy Agency, the management committee decided to install a wood-fuelled boiler. Wood as a source of fuel is ‘carbon neutral’ and therefore does not add any additional CO2 to the atmosphere, as long as the wood can be sourced locally, so there are minimal CO2 emissions associated with transportation.

The boiler was originally commissioned in 2006 to run on wood pellets due to limited space available to store fuel. Since then, the management committee has secured an agreement with an adjacent land owner for space to build a wood chip store which has been operational since early 2007. This allows for the system to use locally produced wood chips, making it a truly carbon neutral heating system.

Wood chip store

The installed boiler system incorporates a fire-clay lined universal combustion chamber, fire resistant moving grate, water-cooled tubular heat exchanger with automatic cleaning, two-way ash removal system at the combustion chamber and heat exchanger, automatic ignition, controlled stoker conveyer, microprocessor control system including a sensor to regulate pump and mixer valves according to the outside temperature and a stainless steel insulated chimney. An operating lifetime of 25 years can be expected from the boiler.

Wood fuel boiler

Reasons for inclusion as Shining Example This project demonstrates the benefits of wood-fired boilers in terms of saving energy, reducing fuel bills and reducing CO2 emissions. The project also shows what a community can achieve by working together and in partnership with public bodies.

Costs and benefits

Costs & funding The total cost of installing the heating system was €54,000 plus an additional €12,000 for the wood chip store and feed mechanism. With €27,000 grant assistance provided by Carlow Leader, the installation will pay for itself in less than two years (or in just over three years, to payback the total project cost including the grant).

(Note: as no heating system was used previously, the annual fuel usage estimates are based on standard benchmarks for energy use in sports complexes comparing a standard oil boiler with wood chips.)

Wood chip feed mechanism

Benefits The lower fuel cost and high efficiency of the boiler has resulted in the centre’s heating costs being over 60% below an oil system, with an estimated saving of €20,700 compared to oil-based heating (€517,500 over the lifetime of the biomass boiler). The wood chip boiler will also avoid the emissions of 113 tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year.

Partnership details

Partners and role Carlow Leader Rural Development Company Limited provided grant assistance for this project. Carlow Leader aims to encourage and support rural dwellers and community groups in Carlow to consider the long term potential of their areas in accordance with their own priorities.

The Carlow Kilkenny Energy Agency provided advice to the community centre’s management committee when they were considering suitable heating systems. The Agency was established to provide sustainable energy information and services to the people of Carlow and Kilkenny, to local businesses and community groups, and to the local authorities.

Carlow County Council and Carlow Kilkenny Energy Agency have signed up to the Display® Campaign in order to analyse and improve the energy efficiency of public buildings in the County. The Carlow Kilkenny Energy Agency have focused on public buildings as this is an effective means of raising energy awareness.


Achievements This project is looking to the future. It is providing facilities to the community to foster fit minds and bodies through participation, activity and socialising. The construction and use of Old Leighlin Community Hall is the result of strong community effort and spirit. The efforts achieved to-date can be continued and the hall can provide an excellent example of the benefits of heating with renewable energy, to all those who use and visit the hall. This project is also an example of what a community can achieve by working together and in partnership with public bodies.

Heating with wood fuel will reduce the running costs of the building and eliminate CO2 and many other harmful emissions related to heating with fossil fuels by utilising an environmentally friendly renewable energy source.

This project will also complement the nearby swimming pool in Bagenalstown, which is now heated using heat pump systems.

Lessons learned The wood chip boiler installed in this community hall demonstrates and promotes good practice renewable heating for the benefit of other community centres or large buildings.

This project has the potential to be replicated for a very large number of existing and new buildings. Meeting national and European targets for renewable heating will require a very large number of buildings to be heated with wood fuel and other renewable energy resources. To help achieve this, the project promoters will endeavour to promote and demonstrate this project.

To know more

Organisation name Carlow Kilkenny Energy Agency
Contact Rory McConnon
Phone +353 (0)59 914 3871

Useful info

Publication “Woodchip Boiler Systems - Old Leighlin Community Hall, Molaise Est. – Old Leighlin, Co Carlow” prepared by Carlow Kilkenny Energy Agency
Arrangements to visit Contact The Carlow Kilkenny Energy Agency

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