US, UK biomass power projects given go-ahead

By Anna Austin
Posted November 5, 2009, at 12:30 p.m. CST

After three years of project planning and evaluation, Xcel Energy has been given the green light to convert what was once solely a coal-fired power plant into the largest 100 percent woody biomass-fired power plant in the Midwest. Across the Atlantic Ocean, construction of an 80-MW biomass power plant in the U.K. has been granted approval by Energy and Climate Change Minister David Kidney.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin granted project approval beginning in November, about eight months after Xcel submitted its application. The power utility will now convert the last of the three boilers at its Bay Front Power Plant in Ashton, Wis., to utilize a biomass gasification technology. The remaining two boilers have combusted woody biomass for the past 30 years.

In its entirety, Xcel Energy expects the project to cost $58.1 million, which includes additional biomass receiving and handling facilities at Bay Front, an external gasifier, modifications to the boiler and an enhanced air quality control system.

The primary fuel source at the 60-megawatt (MW) plant will be forest waste from surrounding areas. Once fully operational, the entire plant will require 400,000 to 450,000 tons of woody biomass per year.

Engineering design and construction is slated to begin next year, completion is expected in late 2012.

For more information about the project, read "A Colossal Conversion" at in the March 2009 Biomass Magazine.

Peterborough Renewable Energy Ltd. will construct the 80-MW biomass power plant in the U.K. as part of an energy park in Peterborough in eastern England, along with a facility to sort and recycle glass, building blocks and other materials.

Peterborough Energy Park will receive agricultural waste and elements of construction and demolish waste from local sources, to process about 460,000 metric tons (507,000 tons) of materials, according to PREL. Nine independent combustion units supplied by Biomass Power Ltd. will gasify biomass material to produce a syngas that will be used to heat water to create steam, and produce electricity via a steam turbine.

The electricity produced at the site will be about to power approximately 60,000 homes.