U.K. biomass plant gets the go-ahead

By Lisa Gibson
Posted September 3, 2009, at 1:15 p.m. CST

The U.K. government has approved construction of a 60-megawatt biomass power plant at the Port of Tilbury Docks in Essex that is expected to be operational in 2012.

The plant will run on 300,000 metric tons annually of wood chips and wood waste, and another 300,000 metric tons of solid recovered fuel from sources such as household waste, according to the developer, Tilbury Green Power, a subsidiary of Express Energy. The feedstock will be delivered by boat and barge mostly from Europe and the U.S. and some from the U.K. The company hopes to use more biomass from the U.K. in the next three to five years, as local sources are established. The plant will create 120 sustainable jobs, along with about 380 during the three-year construction period, according to the company.

The estimated cost of the project is between 250 million ($410 million) and 300 million pounds ($491 million). Tilbury Green Power is exploring funding opportunities, according to Daniel Griffiths, communications representative for the company, and has acquired Renewable Obligation Certificates from the government. The certificates add incentives for accredited renewable energy generators.

The company chose the site for several reasons: its location within the docks makes delivery of fuel easy; it will regenerate an industrial location that has sat dormant for two years after the close of a glucose and starch manufacturing plant; roads within the site and some existing buildings can be reused; and local and regional planning policies support the use of such industrial sites, according to the company.

The electricity generated through the company's combustion technology will be sold to the national grid with the capacity to power more than 100,000 homes, according to Tilbury Green Power, or the equivalent of about 175,000 metric tons produced by burning coal.

This is one of several plants being developed in the U.K., according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, as the country moves full-speed ahead into a renewable energy industry. The government there also recently approved MGT Power's plans to build a 295-megawatt facility in Teesport and another in Tyneside. The country has a renewable energy target of 15 percent by 2020, according to the DECC.