New Navitas biomass facility set for St Albans

Artist's impression of the new Navitas biomass facility

Renewable energy company Navitas Environmental has been granted an environmental permit to operate a new 86,000-tonne biomass facility in St Albans.

The facility, based at Appspond Lane, will process 86,000 tonnes of dry waste wood (sourced from ‘local development and refurbishment projects’) per year to generate 12 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to provide electricity for 17,000 homes.

The facility was granted planning permission by Hertfordshire County Council in December last year, and, following a public consultation, the environmental permit was issued earlier this month.

Navitas has said that now the facility has been granted an environmental permit, project developers Eco2 will begin construction on the plant ‘early next year’.

‘Providing a long-term, sustainable outlet for waste wood’

Andy Beck, Director of Navitas Environmental, said the company was “very pleased” to have been given the go-ahead for the new facility, adding: “The biomass development will be a welcome improvement to the current site and will provide a long-term, sustainable outlet for waste wood, primarily from Hertfordshire, transforming it into 'green' electricity.

“Over 150 people will be employed during the construction of the £60-million facility, and 30 new jobs will be created when it’s operating, plus a further 30 jobs created in the local supply chain.

“We will be working closely with the local community to provide details of the construction timetable and job vacancies as they occur.”

Biomass in the UK

Plant biomass combustion accounted for 18.3 per cent of the UK’s renewable energy in 2012, and DECC’s ‘Renewables Roadmap’ estimates that by 2020, biomass could potentially provide between 26 and 42 per cent of renewable energy in the UK, but there are worries the government could be too dependent on biomass to reach its statutory target of generating 15 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Indeed, a 2012 report from the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace warned that producing power through certain types of biomass combustion can be ‘dirtier than coal’.

Appspond Lane wood waste fire

The biomass facility will be the newest addition to the Appspond Lane site, which also hosts Wood Recycling Services’ (WRS) wood chipping and waste composting facility.

The facility hit headlines two years ago, when a fire broke out at the WRS site in November 2012 and was only declared to be out on 8 February 2013. It was thought that the large quantities of woodchip and recycled wooden pallets that had been allowed to pile up at the site exacerbated the fire and hampered efforts of fire crews to extinguish it.

As such, the Environment Agency (EA) served two notices to the company last year, outlining its intention to withdraw the permits that allow WRS to store and compost wood waste on site.

Read more about the new Navitas biomass plant or the fire at WRS.