Enormous UK biomass power plant nears full commercial operation

By Luke Geiver | January 05, 2012

The world’s largest wood pellet-based biomass power plant was fully commissioned in January, and is now producing electricity.

RWE npower’s Tilbury, England facility produces nearly 750 MW using wood pellets produced at RWE’s Waycross, Georgia facility. The facility has already begun running two out of three biomass boiler units, with the third set for operation at the end of the month.

The facility has been using coal but by 2013, RWE npower plans to operate the facility exclusively on biomass. At 100 percent capacity, the plant will use roughly 2.3 million metric tons (2.5 million tons) of wood pellets by the time the plant switches only to biomass, a switch that Dan Meredith, corporate public relations manager for RWE npower, said would account for 10 percent of renewable energy output for the U.K. going into 2012.

Based on legislation enacted in 2008 aimed at large, older coal-fired power plants, the Tilbury facility was faced with the choice of either investing in improvements, or operating for another 20,000 hours before closing. The Tilbury plant decided not to make the upgrades, but chose instead to finish those 20,000 hours using biomass. RWE will then determine if it will continue operating the plant with biomass feedstock, make the upgrade investments, or shut down. Meredith declined to speak about the company’s plans to operate the facility using biomass past 2013.