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Gaia gets permission to build UK biomass plant

By Lisa Gibson
A 50-megawatt (MW) biomass power plant at Billingham Reach Industrial Estates in the Tees Valley, Northeast England, will supply up to 80,000 homes with electricity annually, once fully operational in 2012. Other biomass projects are in development in the area, including a 295-MW plant operated by MGT Power, slated to go on line at Teesport in 2012.

Gaia Power Ltd., based in Yarm, Tees Valley, received planning permission for its 50-MW plant from the Stockton Borough Council Planning Committee and now will begin working to secure the financing package, according to Michael Fox, Gaia Power founder and chairman. The facility will cost about 200 million pounds ($331.4 million), which will come entirely from the private sector and most likely will be a combination of limited recourse debt and independent equity, according to the company. "I don't think we're going to have any problem at all with that," said June Kelly, media representative for Gaia. Although this is Gaia's first project as a company, its founders have experience in large-scale, capital-intensive projects in both the renewable power and renewable fuels sectors.

The plant will run on about 275,000 metric tons (303,100 tons) of recycled wood chippings per year from mostly local sources, according to Kelly, with about five days worth of fuel kept on-site at all times. The fuel–including pallets, medium-density fiberboard and chipboard–would otherwise go to landfills and contains less moisture than virgin wood, according to Gaia. Aker Solutions, a provider of engineering, technology and construction solutions, has been chosen to develop the facility on 16 acres of the Able UK Ltd. site at Billingham Reach. Able UK is based in Teesside and works to promote redevelopment on properties previously used for retail, leisure, commercial and residential purposes, among others.

The plant is expected to create about 400 jobs during construction, 50 permanent jobs and 50 supply chain positions. Some of the power generated will be used within the plant and 45 MW will be sold to the local grid, according to the company.
Gaia hopes to continue developing biomass power plants in the U.K., subject to availability of fuel and necessary regulatory approvals, according to the company.
 

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