Forestry Commission Scotland logo
Isle of Eriska Hotel

Planning a biomass installation

Biomass systems are an excellent renewable heat option. For many there will be substantial cost savings by investment in the most widely deployed form of renewable energy.

It is possible to install a biomass heating system in a new build project, or to retrofit a system into an existing building or complex of buildings. The technical and financial viability of this will be based upon a clear assessment of your heat needs and then a structured planning process to make the right choices.

This section provides a step by step explanation of the key project phases and considerations required to achieve this.

However, biomass systems are complex and you will typically need support from a range of specialists to realise your project.

Typical Project Phases

Key Activities


What you need to know

1. Pre-feasibility

Establishes initial technical and economic viability and case for investment.

Consultant or in-house, depending on expertise available.


2. Full feasibility
  • Operating profile of heat system
  • Current energy requirement
  • Future energy requirements
  • Fuel prices now and in future
  • Estimated system size
  • Outline design concept
  • Project timeline
  • Budget cost
  • Overall case for investment


Consultant or biomass installer

3. Detailed Design
  • Design concept agreed with client,
  • Consulting engineer appointed to work through detailed design of:
    • System sizing
    • Fuel reception and handling system
    • Civils and building design
    • Combustion system and boiler specifications
    • Heat distribution system
    • Controls and integration

Typically the biomass installer under a 'design and build' contract.

4. Permissions & Consents
  • Planning permission sought for any new structure or modification of existing structures

Client or biomass installers

5. Procurement
  • Procurement of boiler and their components.
  • Procurement of integrations and enabling works to heating system
  • Visits to example sites and possibly manufacturer facilities
  • Maintenance contract
  • Contractual terms and conditions agreed.

Client or consultant

6. Construction & Installation
  • Site works

Biomass installer

7. Commissioning
  • Commissioning of boiler and ancillary equipment.
  • Performance criteria met
  • Emissions criteria met
  • RHI registration
  • Operator training
  • Handover

Biomass installer

8. Operation & Maintenance
  • Ongoing operation
  • Planned and preventative maintenance schedule

Fuel supplier and biomass installer

Further information:

Fuel selection

Whether to use logs, chips or pellets and their applications

Understanding heating requirements

The design and cost of a biomass installation is dependant upon the heat output it is designed to meet. These must be defined.

Understanding efficiency

The different aspects of efficiency, why it's important and how to maximise efficiency.

District heating

What is it and key standards and regulations.


A biomass boiler is only a small aspect of the full costs of a scheme

Funding & Renewable Heat Incentive

The RHI will deliver 20 years of payments that usually far outweigh the initial capital costs

Find and selecting a biomass installer

A reliable and well qualified installer will be crucial for a successful project

Permissions and regulations

Air quality standards, building warrants and sometimes planning permission are required.

Procurement: models and contracts

Decide very clearly what you are buying and how