Instead of following its neighbours, which long ago replaced coal boilers with gas equivalents, Barnsley is now installing wood heating in all new public buildings and refurbishments, embracing biomass fuel as a preferred energy source.
Because wood is considered carbon neutral - any CO2 released in the combustion process is mopped up by growing trees - the move could slash the council's CO2 emissions by 60% by 2010, 40 years ahead of the government's 2050 target.
For [Barnsley MBC chief engineer, Dick] Bradford it is a simple equation. "From an environmental point of view, heating goes from being highly polluting to no carbon," he says. "It's a no-brainer."
Bradford says Barnsley's plants, which burn 6,500 tonnes of coal a year and generate 15,000 tonnes of CO2, will eventually be replaced with biomass, including the new town hall and nine new secondary schools, which will be replaced with new biomass-heated buildings under the Building Schools for the Future programme. The town's coal is currently sourced by UK Coal from various pits to create a "Yorkshire blend". "Soon, we won't be burning coal any more," says Bradford.
Like the one-time coal economy, biomass could provide a real boost to a depressed regional economy, says Bradford. It could provide employment - an estimated 15 jobs for every megawatt generated; bring neglected woodland into active management; and turn wood waste, which would otherwise be sent to landfill, into a commodity. "We get those big wins and we make the carbon savings targets 40 years ahead of where we should be making them. That's not bad."