Ben Williams, Carbon Reduction Coordinator, The Helix.
Ben Williams is the Carbon Reduction Coordinator at The Helix in Scotland, a 350-hectare land transformation project creating community connections and a brand new urban parkland.
His goal was to create a small scale, sustainable biomass-related project that could be delivered across The Helix and partner organisations – Falkirk Council, Scottish Canals, Central Scotland Forest Trust, Falkirk Community Trust and Callander Estates – to achieve carbon reductions, a community enterprise selling a valuable product and a use for wood otherwise going to waste. Funding was provided by Big Lottery and the partners as part of the wider Helix budget of £40.5 million.
He originally looked at a woodfuel cooperative, then anaerobic digestion, but both of these were too large scale and threw up challenges around feedstock, perception of smell and suitable location – not to mention affordability. After reading about the potential of biochar, and discovering the Carbon Gold SuperChar 100 kiln, he decided to pursue a biochar project.
Ben then set about developing the necessary links and supply chain to provide fuel, feedstock and a place to safely use the kiln. The biochar feedstock they are using comes from managed woodlands across the Falkirk District, primarily from wood in tough to manage areas, which would otherwise rot, or be sent to landfill.
The Helix shares a border with sixteen urban communities so placement of the kiln was an important factor to ensure the heat, steam and minimal smoke produced during the charring process wouldn’t cause any issues with local people. After everything was in place, they placed their order, and are now the proud owners of a Carbon Gold kiln.
Ben attended a demonstration burn and received a two-day training session from Carbon Gold kiln specialists Ian McChesney and Seb Burn. They are now running their own burns and successfully producing biochar yields of around 25-30% of the feedstock.
The biochar will first be used at The Helix Allotments to test how the soil and plants respond, before being launched to the wider public as a locally produced soil improver. As a brand new allotment site, the biochar will hopefully give an important boost to the fertility of the soil, and the health and vigor of the plants.
As the project continues, they will bring in members of The Helix Communities to learn how to use the kiln and take the project forward into a community enterprise. This enterprise will have the full support of The Helix, and will be able to sell the finished biochar into the local gardening market, via Helix outlets and local business partners.
Visit The Helix ‘Go Beyond Green’ Biochar page here.