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Biomass Plant planned for UK

By

December 27, 2009

The Teeside Biomass Power Station will 'rise' out of the landscape and will be covered wit...

The Teeside Biomass Power Station will 'rise' out of the landscape and will be covered with local grasses

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This British biomass power station concept is one of the many projects being proposed around the globe as the search for renewable energy sources continues. The visually stunning Teesside plant will be covered with greenery, provide fuel for over 50,000 homes and be powered by palm kernel shells – byproducts of the palm oil plantations and a seemingly controversial choice given the environmental issues surrounding palm oil plantations and deforestation.

Bio Energy Investments Ltd (BEI) has submitted a planning application for the project. If approved, the 49MW biomass fueled power station will be built on the bank of the River Tees on a barren site. It is expected to create hundreds of jobs over its two-year construction period and bring GBP150 million (about US$240 million) dollars of investment to the area.

British architect Thomas Heatherwick was enlisted to design this unique building which will appear to rise up from the surrounding landscape and the exterior panels will be planted from indigenous grasses. It will take up about a third of the currently barren site, and the remaining area will be landscaped to form natural grassland. It is hoped this will encourage rare flora and fauna to return to the site. The building will also house offices, a visitors’ center and a renewable energy education resource center.

Biomass as renewable energy

The power plant is expected to reduce carbon emissions by up to 80% compared with burning fossil fuels. Biomass is seen as a renewable energy source because it is already part of the carbon cycle, it is a replenishable resource and it can be converted to energy in ways that are less harmful to the atmosphere than coal fired power stations.

Though there's little detail on the Teesside plant, its designers have cited palm kernel shells as the fuel source. The reasoning behind this is that land will not be diverted from food production or forestry, a waste product will be removed and palm growers will receive extra revenue. While the use of a waste product has obvious benefits and biomass appears likely to be part of the renewable energy mix in the future, we are not quite sold on this logic. In major Palm Oil producing countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, deforestation is a major issue and most of the world's Palm Oil is produced in equatorial regions.

This leads to another of the challenges of maintaining a positive energy balance when using biomass - transport. The plants' designers say that fuel will be delivered by boats rather than trucks, so the impact on local roads should be reduced, but boats are not exactly carbon neutral and there are still questions about the choice of fuel and where it will be sourced from.

So what do you think? Will burning the waste-products of palm oil plantations create environmental issues that outweigh the benefits – or is it better to make use of waste from a product that some might argue will be produced regardless?

Via Inhabitat via Dezeen.

9 Comments

I really dont care if this power plant is carbon neutral, there is no such thing as carbon neutral anyway, all that I care about is.. does this make power effectively and reliably? It's been my observation that most of these projects rarely work, maybe not from technical issues but more from real world issues, such as how much does it cost to maintain a plant like this or does it really give more energy out than energy in after all is said and done. I think wind farms are the most egregious offenders of that little problem of all the alternative energy suppliers out there. I'm all for new and innovative ways to make power but I wouldn't hang my hat on this one right now.

mrhuckfin
28th December, 2009 @ 09:31 am PST

So we ship the waste product of the palm oil plantations that are destroying pristine environments half way round the world and this is meant to be good?

ihateorange
29th December, 2009 @ 11:03 am PST

Nothing running on palm nut kernels can even remotely be considered as sustainable, environmentally friendly or green. Not to mention shipping the wretched things half way round the world.

stuart.hayman
29th December, 2009 @ 01:03 pm PST

Running this plant will rely on a constant supply of palm kernel shells which have to be transported half way around the world. This sounds crazy. Surely a better place for the power plant would be somewhere a lot closer, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, or Australia. How about using peanut shells, or cacao pods? They only have to come from Africa (I think)

windykites1
29th December, 2009 @ 01:19 pm PST

palm kernel shells !,,,,,,,,,, this is one of the most damaging food products grown,,,,,,,,,,, adding to yet more deaforestation worldwide,,,,,,I hope the planners give this a big thumbs down

robinyatesuk2003
29th December, 2009 @ 05:46 pm PST

Burning biomasses means getting energy from the sun, in this case biomasses from tropical regions where sunshine is 100% sure more than developed areas which are hungry for energy. As long as the said energy is renewable, and no new CO2 is introduced into the atmosphere, I don't care what you all are saying until the developed countries succeed in fusion power.

Akemai Olivia
29th December, 2009 @ 10:22 pm PST

I smell a con!

splatman
30th December, 2009 @ 05:05 am PST

This plant may have its flaws, but at least it's better than another coal plant.

Richard Belihomji
2nd January, 2010 @ 04:10 pm PST

I just looked to see any interesting comments and noticed that before my comment 2 other people immediately before me used the same expression as me: "halfway round the world". None of us could have seen the other comments, because they don't appear for 24 hours. Interesting, huh?

windykites1
5th January, 2010 @ 09:13 am PST
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