BNP acquires UK biomass plant

BNP Paribas Clean Energy Partners has bought a straw-fired renewable energy plant from Eco2 for its clean energy fund.

It is the first biomass facility the fund has bought, although it also owns a wind power facility and solar photovoltaics and other assets in France, Italy, the UK and Ireland.

The new plant is based in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, UK and will be able to produce 40MW, enough power to supply 65,000 homes.

Heat that is produced in surplus from the facility will be used to heat a local swimming pool and council offices, and the ash produced will be put through a recycling process so that it can be used as organic fertiliser for further crop production.

Local farmers’ crops will be used to power the plant and the straw contracts will provide an extra £6 million (€1.9 million) to the local industry.

Darren Williams, Commercial Director of Eco2, explains the process as being made up of a number of stages:

  1. The straw (Heston bales) is delivered to the facility in flat bed trucks
  2. The straw is weighed and the moisture within the bales is checked
  3. The straw is stored for up to three and a half days
  4. The straw is chopped and put into a water cooler vibrator
  5. It is transferred to pendant super heaters
  6. The ash created from this burning process is collected through bag filters and recycled into fertilizer
  7. The heat powers a turbine which in turn creates power for the grid

‘The straw comes from a 30 mile radius. About 11 million tonnes of straw is produced in the UK each year and six million of this is sent to existing markets such as livestock with the rest being ploughed back into the land. The straw we are using is this latter straw – about 250,000 tonnes,’ says Williams.

He adds that he thinks there is potential for further straw-to-energy plants in the UK because there are about four million tonnes of surplus straw which has the overall capacity for about another 16 plants of this size.

‘But it’s whether funders will want to finance this and I doubt they will because they will want to make sure that there is a certain high percentage of capacity available,’ he adds.

Burmeister and Wain Scandinavian Contractor will be in charge of building the plant and the power purchase contract has been made with Statkraft UK.

Joost Bergsma, CEO of BNP Paribas Clean Energy Partners, says: ‘This is the first project-financed deal in UK biomass for five years and will open the way for more projects to follow.  We are happy that after a period of uncertainty, the publication of the revised Renewable Obligation Certificates bands by the Department of Energy and Climate Change has allowed the project to achieve closure without further delay.’

Construction is expected to take about 30 months and the first deliveries of straw are due for delivery towards the end of 2013.

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