New heating system warms bats and protects the environment

18th April 2012

Wood burne stove bats

A new, highly efficient and environmentally friendly heating system has been installed in the bat enclosure at Durrell.

The bio mass burner, which is fuelled by waste wood and animal feed from the wildlife park in Trinity, churns out enough heat to maintain a tropical temperature for the critically endangered Livingstone fruit bats, which live in the Island Bat Roost.

The burner is believed to be the first of its kind in Jersey that uses waste wood rather than bio mass pellets and importantly for Durrell, which last year won a Green Tourism Business Gold Award, it is a carbon neutral means of keeping the bats warm.

Paul Masterton, Durrell’s chief executive officer, said: “The Livingstone fruit bats would enjoy tropical temperatures in their native forest habitat in the Comoros islands and the bio mass burner is a clever and innovative way to provide free heat for these critically endangered animals. It also solves the problem of what to do with a lot of the waste produced by the wildlife park, which does not compost well.”

The bio mass burner was generously paid for by HSBC, whose staff helped to create the bat enclosure, which opened nearly a year ago. The enclosure was built using recycled tyres, wine bottles and straw bales and was designed to create an energy efficient tropical environment for the bats, as well as an exciting new visitor attraction.

The focus on using “green” technology for the build was an essential part of the project, reflecting Durrell’s commitment to a sustainable environment. The bio mass burner complements this perfectly.

Le Lay Engineers, who kindly carrying out the work at cost price, installed the burner at the end of January and community service workers laid down the concrete slab that the boiler house, which contains the burner, sits on.

Before the burner was in situ, electric fans were used to keep the bats warm but these were expensive and less environmentally friendly, and did not keep the enclosure at a regulated temperature. In contrast, the bio mass burner is controlled by heat sensors, which are automatically regulated. Once combustible material is burning, the heat it produces needs to reach the correct temperature before a fan blows the warm air into the bat house.

All the necessary fuel is sourced within the Durrell site. Although the burner uses mainly waste wood, such as wood shavings from the animal enclosures, logs and wood chip from maintenance work within the park, old animal feed pellets and cereals, such as barley and wheat, are also burned.

About one dustbin full of logs, which are fed manually, is burned through the day and four dustbins of shavings overnights. At full power, it produces 45kw of energy per hour, which is more than is needed most of the time.

Mr Masterton said: “The burner does require a bit more time and maintenance but we have managed to incorporate this into the keeper’s daily routines. An oil-fired machine would be far less work to run but would come with a big carbon footprint. Electric fans are also very low maintenance but cost a fortune to keep the enclosure at the correct temperature.”

The boiler house is the next building along from the public viewing area at the Island Bat Roost and the bio mass burner can be seen through a window, it is also easy to view from the great new lemur walkway next door.

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