Peel delays construction of Barton biomass plant

Peel delays construction of Barton biomass plant
Artist's impression of the Barton Renewable Energy Plant

Peel Energy, the renewable energy division of infrastructure enterprise The Peel Group, is delaying the construction of its new biomass incineration plant in Davyhulme, Manchester, to assess whether running it as a combined heat and power (CHP) would be more energy efficient than just running it as an electricity plant.

Peel Energy has stated that the Barton Renewable Energy Plant would burn approximately 200,000 tonnes of biomass wood (with ‘much of the fuel’ derived from ‘reclaimed wood’) a year to produce enough renewable electricity to power 37,000 homes for at least 25 years.

However, following discussions with Trafford Council and The Peel Group last week, plans to start construction at the 12-acre site adjacent to the Davyhulme waste water treatment works have been delayed to allow Peel to establish whether the biomass plant could operate more efficiently by cogenerating heat and electricity.

According to the European Union, cogeneration plants can achieve energy efficiency levels of around 90 per cent (although the Energy Efficiency Directive classes cogeneration plants as ‘high efficiency’ if they achieve 70 per cent energy efficiency), and increased uptake could help lower greenhouse gas emissions by up to 250 million tonnes by 2020. (However, to date successful heat transfer from CHPs have been rare due to the disruption caused to lay adequate pipe networks.)

‘A new opportunity to secure a better outcome for all’

As such, Peel Energy is now reviewing its plans to establish whether a CHP facility would be more energy efficient. A Peel Group spokesman said: “We have taken the opportunity to consider options for improving the sustainability of the scheme by the supply of heat to local developments and industry and will continue to work closely with Trafford Council officers and its senior elected members.”

Conservative Leader of the Council Sean Anstee said: “I am pleased that Peel is reconsidering its plans... Our intervention and continued lobbying has delayed construction that otherwise would have started by now and presents a new opportunity to secure a better outcome for all.”

The news has been welcomed by those opposing the construction of the facility, including anti-incineration body Breathe Clean Air Group (BCAG), which has argued that the incinerator would create air pollution, negatively impact health, and would not use best-available technology.

Indeed, BCAG had petitioned the council about its concerns in 2011, which – in part – led the council to refuse planning permission to the £70-million biomass incineration facility. However, following a public inquiry in 2012, the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) Secretary of State Eric Pickles overruled the decision in May 2013. Despite the council appealing the overruling in court, the decision was upheld in February 2014 following a judicial review.

Pete Kilvert, Chairman of BCAG, said that the news of the delay was “very encouraging”, and thanked Trafford Council for “continuing its dialogue with the Peel Group”, as well as the councillors for supporting BCAG’s campaign.

He added: “This is a great day for Trafford and Greater Manchester. There are several schools, sports facilities and many houses in the fall-out zone for this incinerator's air pollution. We have campaigned to protect our children and residents for the right to breathe clean air. We are so pleased that our campaign looks to be coming to a satisfactory conclusion.”

Boosting CHP uptake in the UK

CHP facilities could soon become more common in the UK if new legislation is put forward as proposed.

Earlier this month, the House of Lords Grand Committee recommended that an amendment be made to the Environmental Permitting Regulations in England and Wales so that combustion installations of over 20 megawatts in size would have to carry out a cost benefit analysis to assess whether the installation of CHP or waste heat recovery systems would increase energy efficiency (as required under the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive).

Further, where cogeneration or waste heat recovery options are shown to be cost beneficial, operators would be required to install such systems as part of their environmental permit.

Former Resource Minister Lord de Mauley said: “By installing these systems, operators will achieve cost savings and there will also be social benefits from reduced carbon emissions and improved security of energy supply.

“The amending regulations are consistent with our aim to protect the environment for future generations, make our economy more environmentally-sustainable and improve our quality of life and well being.”

He concluded: “These amending regulations will help ensure operators install energy-efficient systems and reduce the carbon emissions where they’re cost beneficial. I therefore commend these regulations to the committee.”

The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales have reportedly developed cost benefit guidance for this amended regulation, which will be published ‘shortly’.

Read more about The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, or find out more about the Barton Renewable Energy Plant.

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