22 Jan 2024

A village in Alava has been heating itself using forest biomass for 10 years

For the past decade, the residents of Sabando, a small council in the mountains of Alava, have been heated in winter and have hot water all year round without having to worry about the price of gas or diesel, thanks to having one of the first biomass community heating systems installed in Spain.

Its mayor, Ángel Marcos Pérez de Arrilucea, explains that before deciding on this system, the 50 residents of this hamlet in the municipality of Maeztu had two alternatives: either they had to pay an annual bill of around 2,500 euros for gas oil or gas, or they would have to go to the mountains to cut the twelve tonnes of wood that a house consumes every year. “That was going to take a lot of time and effort, especially for the older villagers,” he explains.

Faced with this situation, the villagers did the maths and saw that, with the biomass system, they could save between 40% and 60% of that annual expenditure on gas or diesel. At the same time, they could practically halve their firewood consumption.

Every spring they hire a company to extract the necessary forest biomass (350 tonnes of wood per year) from the 1,000 hectares of communal woodland in the village. This is a task with added value, as these are usually the thickest areas of the forest, which are cleaned and protected from the risk of fire.

The villagers are delighted and want to stay in the village, as they can enjoy the mountains of Alava without the discomfort of the harsh winter. In addition, in line with this line of energy saving, the interest in the experience of this rural village has reached other nearby villages. “The bill is half that of a diesel boiler, which is also a fossil fuel, with all that that entails. As for the issue of firewood, at my age I don’t see myself going to the mountains to cut, which is a lot for the winter”, comments one of the neighbours. “I don’t know if it has anything to do with it, but since we have this system there are seven more children in the village”, says the trustee, who has no doubt that the improvements in habitability have meant that several young couples have stayed in Sabando.