Despite having up-to-date biomass boilers which were supposed to be their main source of heat and hot water, the two new high schools at Eyemouth and Duns are using gas power.
When a member of the public contacted their local councillor asking for information about the woodchip biomass systems installed at the three new high schools at Earlston, Duns and Eyemouth, the request was forwarded to council officers and the response was: “The three PPP high schools have stopped using woodchip biomass in their heating systems.
“We are using natural gas as the heat source (previously it was a combination of gas and biomass).
“The reason for the change is that gas is cheaper than biomass per kWh and there are issues with the efficiency of the biomass systems which we are looking into.”
A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson confirmed this week: “Since the opening of Berwickshire, Earlston and Eyemouth high schools, the council has been monitoring the performance of their biomass and heating systems.
“Over the past two years there has been significantly high energy consumption of both biomass and gas at these schools, which was of concern.
“An independent consultant was commissioned to investigate the reasons into the apparent high consumption of the heating and biomass systems and the findings highlighted system inefficiencies relating to a number of factors.
“Taking all of the factors into account and noting that the current cost of biomass is higher than that of gas, the council reluctantly decided to switch off the biomass boilers as the current level of fuel consumption and the inefficiencies was unsustainable and could not be rectified swiftly.
“The council is currently considering the options available in relation to resolving the system inefficiencies.”
There have been problems with the biomass boilers in the three schools almost from day one. The new school at Duns opened in February 2009 and Eyemouth High School a month later but by October 2009 both biomass boilers had developed faults.
At the time SBC’s head of property management, said: “There are significant questions to be answered as to the configuration of the boilers and the ability of the heating systems andthis needs further investigation, particularly at Eyemouth and Duns.
“The biomass boilers for all three PPP high schools should be providing the base heat for hot water and heating, with gas boilers providing supplemental heat at times of peak demand,”
Building contractor, John Graham Ltd was also asked to inspect the installation of the biomass boilers and “formulate proposals for reconfiguring the systems so they operate effectively and efficiently”.