ENVIRONMENTAL concerns and ever rising costs have encouraged local monks to invest in a wood pellet boiler - a move which has helped them significantly reduce their carbon emissions and save 40% in the last 12 months on their energy bills.
Based on the banks of the River Bann, Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey in Portglenone was built in 1962 to house 70 Cistercian monks and as an active cultural centre welcomes several thousand visitors each year.
The Abbey incorporates the monastic church; the public church; the guest house; the Printing Press that specialises in memoriam cards; The Repository, which stocks a wide range of religious goods; the Craft shop which sells a wide range of locally sourced gift items and the Abbey Tea shop which is open to all visitors.
A 350kw wood pellet boiler was installed in the monastery in March 2009 fuelled by Co. Fermanagh produced brites, and it is the only monastery in Ireland to use brites.
brites provides all the heating and hot water requirements including the under floor heating in the monastic church which is reserved for the community of monks who rise at 3.30am each day and come together there for the first of seven common daily prayer times.
Father Aelred Magee, who led the monastery in the move to renewable energy said: “The monastery is a very large building, providing self contained accommodation and facilities for all our monks, so we have a vast volume of space to heat. It is also very much a building which reflects the style of architecture of the 1960’s, being made of concrete, brick and glass, so while it is listed and very striking, the insulation is not very good and therefore we have a large heating requirement.
“Having made the move to renewable energy I would not look back as we are benefitting from substantial savings on our energy bills of over £7,000 annually.
“Using brites is very easy as they are fed automatically into the boiler via self feed auger and because they are high quality pellets. I only need to empty the ash pan every three weeks in the winter and every six weeks in the summer. The ash collected is then used as a fertiliser in our gardens”.