Renewable energy makes powerful progress

Sustainable energy is advancing rapidly across the board, from well developed landfill gas power generation, to energy from waste incineration and newer technology including energy, wind and wave power and less sophisticated wood burning. LAWE Editor Alexander Catto reports on recent developments in this dynamic sector

The offshore wind energy industry had good cause for celebration in December following the "Round 2" announcement that 15 projects off the coast of the UK, representing 5.4 and 7.2 GW of new wind capacity, will be offered under leases. The Crown Estate, which leases the seabed around the UK said that the sites will be built in three strategic areas of shallow sea: the Thames Estuary; Greater Wash; and in the North West. The projects include the world's largest proposed offshore wind farm, in the Greater Wash area, which will provide up to 1.2 GW of generating capacity.

The British Wind Energy Association welcomed the Government's decision to expand significantly the UK's plans for renewable power, with a 50% rise in the Renewable Obligation from 10% by 2010 to 15% by 2015.

The Government is also backing solar power, with the DTI announcing £1.8 million for renewable energy projects. The funding is part of the DTI's £20 million Major Photovoltaic (PV) Demonstration Programme which helps householders, public buildings, community projects and commercial ventures convert to solar power.

Renewables jobs potential

Renewable energy could reap significant economic and social benefits for the UK, according to a new report. The Renewables Supply Chain Gap Analysis assesses the current status of the renewables industry in the UK and an assessment of its future potential for employment and the renewable energy industry.

The report states that some 8,000 jobs are already sustained by renewables in the UK: by 2020, between 17,000 - 35,000 jobs could be sustained by renewables in the UK.

The renewable energy technologies reviewed included: wind (onshore and offshore), wave, tidal, hydro, biomass, biofuels, waste to energy, landfill, solar thermal, photovoltaics, fuel cells, geothermal, hydrogen and energy storage. The study identifies the services, research, design and manufacturing capability associated with all these technologies.

The International Energy Agency, based in Paris, has also published its first comprehensive study of renewable energy technologies. Renewables for Power Generation: Status and Prospects identifies the key resources, technical characteristics, costs and development trends. It provides a baseline assessment of the current status and near term potential of six renewables used to produce electricity.

The report highlights the on-grid use of solar photovoltaics (PV), which in the best resource locations is increasingly close to the cost of retail power where supportive policies are in place, such as California.

For other technologies in locations where resources are strong, wind, bioenergy, small hydro and biopower are competitive on a kilowatt hour basis with fossil fuels for electricity production. In off-grid market niches, solar PV, small wind, small hydro and biopower can have a competitive edge, the IEA study indicates.

Impact of incinerators

Friends of the Earth (FoE) says a new study it has produced reveals that people living in the England's most deprived neighbourhoods are more likely to also bear the burden of pollution caused by incineration. Half of all municipal waste incinerators in England are found in wards that are in the10% most deprived in the country, the study shows.

The FoE study also looked at proposals for new municipal waste incinerators and found that new incinerators are not being proposed in the wealthiest wards within local authorities.

Friends of the Earth says that its study came as the Environment Agency published comprehensive new research showing that poorer communities bear the burden of environmental problems as diverse as air pollution, factory emissions and flooding risk.

Friends of the Earth's Waste Campaigner, Anna Watson said: "The Government must introduce a tax on incineration to create an incentive against building new incinerators. Recycling is the answer, not incinerators in England's poorest communities."

Grundon project advances

Lakeside Energy from Waste Ltd, the company set up by Grundon Waste to develop the facilities at its Colnbrook site near Slough, has received its PPC permit for its proposed e-f-w plant. A separate permit has also been issued for the redevelopment of the existing clinical waste incinerator (CWI).

The 400,000 tpa e-f-w plant and the complementary front end 40,000 tpa MRF gained planning permission by Slough Borough Council in June 2000. The Environment Agency gave IPC authorisation for the e-f-w plant in December 1999.

Richard Skehens, Managing Director of both Grundon and Lakeside, says: "We now have all the necessary permits and permissions to allow us to proceed with the development of the Colnbrook site as an integrated waste management facility for the benefit of the local boroughs.

"The e-f-w component of the plant will primarily burn the residues from domestic waste. These residues will be supplied through long term source segregated contracts with local authorities or third party waste collection companies, which themselves do not have long term collection, recovery and disposal contracts with local authorities, but do not have their e-f-w facilities to deal with the residues from their recovery operations."

Mr Skehens added that the company was now in the final stages of placing the Engineering Procurement Contract and the appointment of the Operations and Maintenance Contractor (OMC). Grundon will reach financial closure on the £120 million contract during 2004 and will have "the plant up and running by late 2006." As part of the overall Colnbrook development, a PPC permit has also been issued for redevelopment of the clinical waste incinerator (CWI). The new incinerator will replace and update a facility which has operated at the site for 12 years. The existing CWI will be dismantled and a new 1.25 tonnes per hour plant will be built a short distance away.

The plant will have its own environmental pollution control equipment and will be operated independently of the e-f-w plant. Steam from the CWI will be utilised within the facility to improve energy efficiencies. The plant will be completed in early 2005 at a cost of approximately £4 million.

Landfill gas expansion

On the more familiar landfill gas power generation front Bury MP David Chaytor joined the Lord Mayors of Bury and Rochdale recently at the official opening of Viridor Waste Management's Pilsworth Power Plant Extension in Heapbridge. The latest additions to the plant of a further four engines generating 4.2MW of electricity mean that site now generates 7MW of renewable electricity which is sold on to the national grid. The plant utilises the methane from landfill gas in the adjacent Pilsworth Landfill Site.

The Pilsworth event also celebrated Viridor's power generation programme reaching the milestone of 40 MW capacity now installed at 16 landfill sites across the UK. Another new power plant at the company's Whitehead Landfill at Astley Green, near Wigan, has also been opened recently.

Viridor's expansion programme continues and the company hopes to install a further five MW within the next year, including some new sites. There are concerns however regarding the Environment Agency's current position on implementation of PPC Regulations at power generation sites, and the associated guidance, which may have a negative effect on renewable power generating capacity within the waste sector. David Chaytor, MP said: "One of the biggest challenges facing the UK over the next 10 - 20 years will be energy, as fossil fuels reach their production peak and then decline. Renewable energy sources such as waste-to-energy power plants will therefore become increasingly important to us.

"Congratulations are due to Viridor both for their achievements here at Pilsworth and nationally on achieving the 40 megawatt milestone".



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