Thursday, November 22, 2007

Largest biomass plant in world will import timber

From where I sit, I look out of the window and can see coniferous and mixed forests. In fact much of Wales is woodland. Most of this is exported to England, where value is added to it by turning it into something more useful. The Welsh economy thus sadly misses out.

So when Energy Secretary John Hutton announced yesterday a green light for a 350MW wood-chipped fuelled electricity generating plant in Port Talbot, south Wales, it seemed to be good news for Wales and a sustainable local market for local timber.

But where is the timber coming from? Apparently, "Sustainable sources in the US and Canada".

The fuel will be wood chips coming by sea only (or potentially in the future by rail).

"This will be the biggest biomass plant in the world," he trumpeted, "generating enough clean electricity to power half of the homes in Wales.'

Great news.

"When completed at the turn of the decade, the £400m plant from developer Prenergy, will contribute around 70% of the Welsh Assembly's 2010 renewable electricity target."

A big sigh of relief from anti-windfarm campaigners.

"And with biomass generation it will be able to produce continuous, base-load electricity for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year over the 25 years of its expected lifetime."

We accept that Wales alone couldn't provide all of this fuel. But - talk about taking coals to Newcastle (which of course we don't talk about anymore - this used to be a metaphor for doing something silly - delivering a product to a place that already had plenty of it. I'm sure coal probably is delivered to Newcastle these days!). Surely Wales can provide some of it, and what is the carbon cost of harvesting it in N. America and shipping it across the sea?

I am currently trying to get further information from Prenergy.

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