Resource Use

Planning application re-submitted for Wiltshire EfW facility

Northacre Renewable Energy Limited (NREL) has submitted a renewed planning application to Wiltshire Council to build a £200-million energy-from-waste (EfW) facility in Westbury.

NREL, which is owned by UK power producer Bioenergy Infrastructure Group and Wiltshire-based waste management company The Hills Group, has submitted a new application after updating the proposed technology used in the facility from gasification, as per the original 2019 plans, to a conventional moving grate combustion process.

An artists' impression of the proposed NREL facility in Westbury, Wiltshire.
An artists' impression of the proposed NREL facility in Westbury, Wiltshire.
According to NREL, the proposed plant will process 243,000 tonnes of residual waste from businesses and households every year with an energy generating capacity of 25.6 megawatts (MW), producing around 201,000MW a year – enough to power 54,000 homes.

The new facility also includes provision for electric vehicle charging stations to support the transition to electric vehicles in Westbury for staff, suppliers and visitors. Once fully operational, the site will support 40 permanent skilled jobs, who;e up to 450 construction workers will be employed during the peak phase of construction.

Prior to submitting the renewed planning application, NREL undertook a pre-application consultation process, to gather the views of local residents and stakeholders. This process was undertaken prior to the mandatory six-week consultation process the council is now required to hold following the official planning application submission.

The hosting of the pre-consultation events were adapted to virtual meetings during the Covid-19 crisis to allow the community – including MPs, Wiltshire Council, Westbury Town Council and the Westbury Gasification Action Group – to give their views. 64 people attended a live virtual event, with an on-demand version now available on the NREL website.

NREL is also planning to submit an application to the Environment Agency for an environmental permit to operate the facility in the event that the planning application is validated.

Commenting on the application, an NREL spokesperson said: “At a time of significant economic uncertainty, the Northacre facility represents a £200-million investment in Wiltshire’s economy with enough low-carbon electricity generated to power 54,000 homes. The proposed technology with established supply chains and improved deliverability will enable us to provide a responsible solution for this residual waste [from households and businesses] whilst generating much needed low carbon electricity. We take our local responsibilities extremely seriously and will continue our high level of engagement with all our stakeholders, including local communities, to ensure any concerns are addressed appropriately.”

Burning issue

EfW has been pushed back into the spotlight in the resources and waste sector with UK think tank Policy Connect calling for the UK to invest in EfW to deal with increasing levels of residual waste.

However, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) issued a statement calling for an end to the “demonisation” of the technology after a report from Greenpeace found that incinerators are three times more likely to be built in poor areas than rich areas.

EfW has long ignited debate, with environmental consultancy Eunomia Research and Consulting warning increased EfW capacity could place a limit on recycling figures back in 2017, a claim firmly rejected by waste management companies such as SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, which claimed the UK could be heading for a residual waste treatment capacity gap by 2030.

Furthermore, anti-incineration campaign group UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) has been vocal in its criticism of future investment in EfW in the UK, warning that harmful emissions from incinerators are going unreported, and pose a significant risk to public health. Research conducted by the group also claimed that incinerators release vast amounts of CO2, finding that plants released 11 million tonnes of CO2 in 2017.

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