Community shares: Manchester firm seeks investment to use wood waste for clean energy



A Manchester social enterprise has launched a community share offer to fund its efforts to use local timber resources that would otherwise be wasted as low-carbon fuel.

TreeStation, a co-operatively run not-for-profit, is hoping to raise £230,000 to buy an on-site biomass boiler, to lower its own carbon footprint and allow it to dry and sell more sawn wood for local heating.

The firm takes wood from local treework contractors that would otherwise be disposed of and sent to power stations to generate electricity in an inefficient process.

“This is timber that is brought down anyway just as a result of routine maintenance work in gardens, parks and woodlands, that otherwise goes to waste, and we’re trying to make the best use of it, either for wood fuels or for sawn timber for furniture”, explained Patrick Morello, financial director of TreeStation.

“Producing electricity from wood is extremely inefficient because wood is really wet. To transport it all over the country and then spend money drying it out so it can be burnt and then burning it – all these processes involve quite a large energy loss.

“The energy resulting from that is tiny compared to what you get if you just keep the wood in your own backyard and burn it, which is what we want to do,” he said.  

Through this approach to wood waste management, TreeStation hopes to “change the whole culture around treework”, inspiring similar initiatives elsewhere.

The firm’s board of directors is made up of local volunteers, and the share offer has been launched as a means of getting more people involved.

“What we’re about is involving the local community in finding solutions to climate change,” Morello added.

“Climate change is a terrible issue as we all know, and one of the solutions to it is wood fuels. There’s an amazing amount of wood in the UK – surprisingly, given we don’t have a lot of forest cover – but most of it isn’t put to good use.

“We’re planting a seed, showing that something can be done by making use of this fantastic resource.”  

Shares in Treestation can be bought by downloading the share offer document and application form.  The minimum investment is £200 and the maximum £50,000. Shares are eligible for the Enterprise Investment Scheme tax relief.

TreeStation are also hosting an open day on July 12, with any potential investors welcome to attend.

On Tuesday, newly released figures named Manchester as the second most active city in terms of community share offers, with 3,000 people raising £2.5m for a variety of local projects.

Photo: TreeStation

Further reading:

Oxfordshire leading the UK on co-operatives and community shares

Wood heat industry gets new trade body

Renewable heat incentive to boost ‘financially attractive’ alternatives to oil

Biomass: the wood-be answer to our energy needs


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