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£2m renewable heating system installed in historic mill

A £2m renewable energy heating system is to be installed in an historic Greater Manchester mill.

New Charter Housing Trust, which owns Cavendish Mill, in Ashton under Lyne, will introduce the technology at the Grade II listed property.

Developed by Warrington-based Belfry Group, the EcoPod system features a biomass boiler, 40 solar thermal panels and eight gas boilers. It will provide heating and hot water for 160 flats at the former cotton mill.

The installation is one of the first of its kind in the UK and will reduce the building’s carbon footprint by more than 40 per cent.

Belfry also plans to give the mill’s original chimney a new lease of life by using it as a natural flue to release gases that are generated during the process.

New Charter Housing Trust head of investment Danny Vose said: “This is a fantastic project to be involved in because it brings together old and new.

“Cavendish Mill has a rich history, dating back to the 1800s, but once this installation has been completed, it will have a heating system fit for the 21st century.

“According to our calculations, we expect to reduce carbon emissions by approximately 200 tonnes per annum. Individual tenants will also benefit too with savings of up to 40 per cent on their fuel bills.”

The EcoPod was developed by Belfry’s Managing Director Keith Rimmer to reduce fuel poverty in high-rise tower blocks.

It took two-and-a-half years and £1m to develop, before being launched under new subsidiary Belfry Renewable Energy in 2010. Since then, it has created 35 jobs, including five apprentices.

New Charter became one of the first housing associations in the country to use the ground-breaking technology when it had an EcoPod installed at a block of flats in Hyde.

Based on the savings that delivered, New Charter placed a further order for Cavendish Mill. Mr Rimmer said: “New Charter are a very forward-thinking company, particularly in terms of some of the things they are doing around renewable technology. We recently fitted an EcoPod at one of their properties in Hyde and the results were remarkable.

“That was a 16-storey tower block, with 96 apartments plus tenant areas, and on one day earlier this year it cost just £12.90 to provide heating and hot water for the whole building, which worked out at 13p per apartment.

“We also managed to dramatically reduce the building’s carbon footprint, reducing CO2 emissions from 160,000kg to 69,000kg.

“This project is slightly different because Cavendish Mill is a listed building dating back to the 1800s. The initial idea was to put an EcoPod on the roof of the mill but that got rejected.

“We have since come up with an alternative solution, which involves taking all of the equipment that normally goes into a pod and installing it into a hard-to-let flat on the ground floor. So, in essence, that has become the pod instead.

“We are also using the chimney, which I’m told hasn’t been used since the 1970s, as a natural flue to extract from the boilers.

“It’s far more efficient, and indeed environmentally friendly, doing it this way than having individual boilers in each of the 160 flats.”

Belfry’s EcoPod installation at Chartist House in Hyde won ‘Environmental Initiative of the Year’ at the H&V News Awards 2011, which is the equivalent of The £2m Oscars for the heating and ventilation industry.