World's largest renewable energy plant to be built in England

By Lisa Gibson
A 295-megawatt biomass electricity plant-the largest in the world-is expected to be operational and capable of providing energy for 600,000 households near Teesport, England, in late 2012, according to MGT Power, the British company developing it.

The Tees Renewable Energy Plant (Tees REP) will run on 2.65 million tons of wood chips per year shipped in from sustainable and certified forestry operations mostly in Europe and America, including the Southeast U.S., according to MGT, which recently received consent from the British government to proceed with development of the facility. No supply contracts are in place yet, but discussions are ongoing. "They're talking to potential suppliers," said Paul Taylor, communications representative for MGT. "There's been a lot of interest." The company also is developing short-rotation forestry operations, which will be planted on unused marginal land in the U.K. and globally, to provide Tees REP with its required supply of biomass.

Teesport is an ideal location because of its deep-water port and sufficient land available for the enormous facility, among other factors, Taylor said. "There are a lot of good points," he said.

The $819 million plant will create 600 jobs during its three-year construction period, 150 permanent jobs during the station's lifetime and once operational, will contribute about $49 million to Northeast England's economy, according to the
company. In addition, it will save 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year and will account for 5.5 percent of the U.K.'s renewable electricity target.

The plant will operate 24 hours a day, year round, producing the same amount of renewable electricity in one year as a 1,000-megawatt wind farm, according to MGT. Construction should begin late this year or early next year, Taylor said. Financing options are being considered and still have to be put in place, he said. "It's very much a commercial financial investment," he said, adding that the company expects financial institutions will want to get involved. Contracts for engineering, construction and other factors also are in the works.

MGT was established in 2007 and while this will be its first plant, it has plans to develop more. "They're certainly looking at other schemes in the U.K.," Taylor said. "Although it is a relatively new company, the guys have a lot of experience."

MGT announced Aug. 10 that it plans to build another 295-megawatt plant at the Port of Tyne. This plant will also be large enough to power about 600,000 homes and should be operational in 2014, according to MGT.

-Lisa Gibson